Mar 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Oversight Committee Dems ask HHS to make abortion pills more accessible

Picture of women holding boxes that say "Abortion pills"

Activists celebrate after taking abortion pills while demonstrating in front of the Supreme Court on Dec. 1, 2021. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to make abortion pills more accessible.

Driving the news: In a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, the lawmakers say the federal government must "ensure that medication abortion is accessible, affordable, and convenient for patients who seek it" as conservative states continue to make it harder for people to obtain abortion pills.

  • The letter was signed by every Democratic woman on the committee.

Catch up fast: The Food and Drug Administration in December issued new guidance making pandemic-era guidance on pill access, which allowed people to access the medication through telemedicine and receive the pills by mail, permanent.

Between the lines: Abortion rights activists have been heralding abortion pills as a potential option in places where clinics may have to close if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

What they're saying: "Expanding access to medication abortion services outside of clinic, hospital, and medical office settings removes barriers to care for patients with less income, including financial burdens associated with travel, arranging childcare, and taking time away from work," the committee members wrote.

  • "For communities where abortion care has historically been pushed out of reach — including for people of color, people with less income, people with disabilities, and people in rural communities — facilitating access to medication abortion care is crucial to advancing reproductive justice."

State of play: The lawmakers are asking the HHS Reproductive Health Care Access Task Force to "determine actions that can be taken to protect and expand medication abortion care access in accordance with the recent elimination of the medically unnecessary in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone."

By the numbers: The use of mifepristone was initially approved by the FDA in 2000. Two decades later, Guttmacher Institute research shows that in 2020, medication abortion accounted for 54% of all reported abortions in the U.S.

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