From the New York Times:
"For the first time, retail pharmacies, from corner drugstores to major chains like CVS and Walgreens, will be allowed to offer abortion pills in the United States under a regulatory change made Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration. The action could significantly expand access to abortion through medication.
"Until now, mifepristone - the first pill used in the two-drug medication abortion regimen - could be dispensed only by a few mail-order pharmacies or by specially certified doctors or clinics. Under the new F.D.A. rules, patients will still need a prescription from a certified health care provider, but any pharmacy that agrees to accept those prescriptions and abide by certain other criteria can dispense the pills in its stores and by mail order.
"The change comes as abortion pills, already used in more than half of pregnancy terminations in the U.S., are becoming even more sought after in the aftermath of last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning the federal right to abortion. With conservative states banning or sharply restricting abortion, the pills have increasingly become the focus of political and legal battles, which may influence a pharmacy’s decision about whether or not to dispense the medication."
The story goes on:
"Mifepristone, which blocks a hormone necessary for pregnancy development, is authorized by the F.D.A. to be taken in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, although many clinics and telemedicine providers have begun offering it up to 12 or 13 weeks into pregnancy, a step they can legally take because there is scientific evidence that the pills are safe and effective in that time frame.
"The second drug in the regimen, misoprostol, has never been as tightly restricted as mifepristone and is used for many different medical conditions; it is easily obtained at pharmacies through a typical prescription process. Misoprostol, which causes contractions that expel pregnancy tissue, is taken 24 to 48 hours after mifepristone.
"Tuesday’s action is a result of an agreement between the F.D.A. and the companies that make the pills. The agreement was worked out in negotiations that took about a year and considered issues such as whether to allow pharmacies to offer the pills in stores or only via mail order and how to keep the identity of prescribing doctors confidential to protect their privacy and safety, according to people familiar with the discussions."
- KC's View:
I would expect that this will become a flashpoint in a lot of communities, as the political and philosophical debate over whether these pills should be allowed boils over in a way that puts stores with pharmacies right in the middle, whether they like it or not.
Pro-choice advocates will demand that stores have these pills available, and anti-choice forces will pressure retailers not to carry them. The debate will rage online, in pulpits and town meetings, probably in parking lots as demonstrations take place, and retailers that just want to take their of their customers may be forced to make decisions they'd rather not make.
It is not going to be pretty.