U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland said in his 80-page opinion that due to the pandemic’s effect on limiting in-person services, patients seeking abortions face a “substantial obstacle” to obtaining abortions, which are time-sensitive.
He wrote, “Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm,” according to PBS.
The substantial obstacle argument was also a big factor in the Supreme Court’s recent verdict that struck down a requirement for doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges in another victory for abortion advocates.
Chuang wrote, “By causing certain patients to decide between forgoing or substantially delaying abortion care, or risking exposure to COVID-19 for themselves, their children, and family members, the In-Person Requirements present a serious burden to many abortion patients,” according to Journal Now.
Health Care Providers Will Mail the Abortion Drugs to Patients During the Ongoing Pandemic
Planned Parenthood CEO and President Alex McGill Johnson tweeted the decision advances “health equity,” and the American Civil Liberties Union said, “This is a critical win for people of color and low-income communities, who are disproportionately suffering under COVID-19.”
The ruling means that patients seeking abortions will have mifepristone and misoprostol, the drug combination that ends and expels unwanted pregnancies, mailed to them through their doctors, according to Journal Now.
Anti-abortion group March for Life said of the decision, “The abortion pill doesn’t save women’s lives; it endangers them. To allow abortion businesses to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to profit off of risky DIY abortions is unethical and unacceptable.”
The Food & Drug Administration Says the Drugs Used for Medical Abortion Are Safe During Early Pregnancy
Mifepristone and misoprostol were both approved by the FDA in 2000 and then again in 2016 with revised information from the drug manufacturer. They say the drugs are safe for use in the first 70 days of pregnancy.
In a white paper published in 2015 by the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health at George Washington University, researchers found that overall the abortion pill was very safe, but 1 out of 100,000 users died from infection after using the drugs.
The authors of that paper say the number of deaths in medical abortion “is slightly higher than the mortality rate for surgical abortion but significantly lower than the maternal mortality rate for women bringing their pregnancies to term,” which they reported as 9.8 out of 100,000 women.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2017 39% of all abortions in the U.S. were done medically.
Part of Chuang’s reasoning in his decision, according to PBS, was that many other in-person drug prescription requirements have been waived by federal regulators “for the specific purpose of protecting public health,” and that the abortion pill is one of about 20,000 drugs that must be picked up at a medical office, hospital or clinic yet are taken at home, unsupervised.
While this is a win for abortion-rights advocates, PBS reported that anti-abortion groups had appealed to the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to stop all abortions during the pandemic, writing a letter in March that said abortion providers’ “continued operation depletes sorely needed personal protective equipment and leads to complications that will further overwhelm already overextended emergency rooms.”
The Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California in San Francisco wrote that abortion is very safe and major complications are extremely rare.
“The safety of abortion in the US is extensively documented,” the Bixby Center wrote. “The most comprehensive study found that abortion is very safe. Major complications are rare, occurring in less than one-fourth of one-percent of procedures, which is safer than having wisdom teeth removed.”