Jan 10, 2023 - News

Getting abortion pills will soon become easier in Washington

Two silver packs of pills with five pills each on a purple background.

A combination pack of mifepristone (L) and misoprostol tablets, two medicines used together, also called the abortion pill. Photo: Elisa Wells/Plan C/AFP via Getty Images

Washington residents soon will be able to get medically assisted abortions without having to go in person to a clinic or doctor's office.

What's happening: A new ruling from the Food and Drug Administration lets retail pharmacies — including mail-order ones — distribute mifepristone, one of two medications that are used in combination to induce abortions.

  • Pharmacies were already able to dispense the other drug, misoprostol, before last week's ruling, but couldn't provide the full regimen.

Why it matters: Many pregnant people don't live close to an abortion provider or would have difficulty traveling to an in-person appointment.

  • The FDA ruling will make it so Washington patients can obtain a prescription through a telehealth appointment, then get it filled at their local pharmacy or through the mail, erasing one barrier to abortion access, said Katie Rodihan, a regional Planned Parenthood spokesperson.

What they're saying: The decision allows Washington patients to "avoid clinical settings and complete the entire process from their hometown — only having to travel as far as their nearest pharmacy," Rodihan wrote in an email to Axios.

Yes, but: Local pharmacies are unlikely to have the pills in stock just yet — and it's not clear when they'll start dispensing them.

  • As of Monday, CVS Pharmacy was still reviewing the FDA's updated safety protocol for the medication, spokesperson Amy Thibault told Axios.
  • RiteAid, which owns Bartell Drugs, similarly told Axios it was still reviewing the FDA ruling.

Plus: Pharmacies then must apply to become certified with the drug manufacturers before they can start ordering pills and dispensing them.

  • Getting an account set up through this process takes about four to six days, one of the manufacturers, GenBioPro, said in a statement to Axios.

Zoom out: Patients in states like Idaho, where abortion is almost completely banned, still won't be able to get abortion pills easily, despite the FDA's ruling.

  • As of 2021, 19 states restricted or banned the use of telehealth appointments to obtain abortion pill prescriptions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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