Abortion Pill: 'Lift Restrictions' on Mifepristone Petition Builds Momentum

A petition calling for the lifting of restrictions on abortion medication is gaining momentum after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Medication abortion has been available in the U.S. since 2000, when the FDA approved the use of mifepristone for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

It involves taking mifepristone, waiting 24 to 48 hours, and then taking misoprostol. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which is essential to sustain a pregnancy, while misoprostol empties the uterus by causing cramping and bleeding.

Medication abortion is expected to become a new battleground after the high court struck down Roe, with Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday warning that states cannot ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA about its safety and efficacy.

With Roe's fall expected to lead to abortion being banned in about half the states, a petition launched by Allison Fine, the former chair of the national board of NARAL: Pro-Choice America Foundation, calling on the FDA to lift barriers to accessing the drugs.

Mifepristone (Mifeprex) and Misoprostol
Mifepristone (Mifeprex) and Misoprostol, the two drugs used in a medication abortion, are seen at the Women's Reproductive Clinic, which provides legal medication abortion services, in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on June 17, 2022. AFP via Getty Images/Robyn Beck

Only physicians are allowed to provide abortion pills in 32 states, while 19 require the clinician prescribing the drugs to be physically present when the pill is administered, according to Guttmacher.

The petition titled "Lift Restrictions on Abortion Medication Now" states the there is "no medical reason" for the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for mifepristone, citing experts who argued in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2017 that such restrictions "no longer makes clinical sense" and should be "expeditiously withdrawn."

"The restrictions are entirely political in nature," the petition states. "President Biden has said that he wants to protect women's access to contraception and abortion medication. Great! Joe end the restrictions on mifepristone today!"

By 12 p.m. (midday) ET about 1,000 people had signed the petition which was created shortly after the Supreme Court ruling was announced.

Fine and the FDA have been contacted for further comment.

How mifepristone and misoprostal work
How the chemical combination of mifepristone and misoprostal acts to end a pregnancy. AP Graphic

Medication abortion accounts for more than half of all abortions in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

In July 2020, the FDA lifted restrictions on abortion pills so patients could skip in-person visits and get a prescription via an online consultation and then receive the pills through the mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency made the change permanent in December.

But it led to abortion opponents ramping up efforts to limit access to the drugs.

Republican governors in several states, including Arkansas, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas, have already signed laws prohibiting abortion pulls from being delivered by mail.

There are a number of online initiatives that send abortion pills by mail, including Aid Access, a private initiative led by a Dutch physician, where European doctors prescribe the drugs and they are sent to people in 30 U.S. states.

Meanwhile, organizations like Plan C aim to raise awareness and educate about self-managed abortions and provide information and how and where the drugs can be obtained online.