New FDA Guidelines Seen as a Victory for Abortion Rights

Updated FDA guidelines allow lower dosage, longer time to take pills

New FDA Guidelines Seen as a Victory for Abortion Rights
Illustration by Jason Stout

A change to abortion drug labeling by the Food and Drug Administration today could reverse some of the onerous restrictions found in Texas law, House Bill 2.

The FDA updated the rules for abortion-inducing drug mifepristone (which is taken together with misoprostol) to allow women to take the medication up to 70 days of gestation, rather than 49 days. It also reduces the drug dosage from 600 to 200 milligrams. Health professionals say the original FDA labeling, based on clinical trials from the mid-90s, added cost and more side effects for patients. Major health groups including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association have relied on off-label, evidence-based protocol as a safer, more effective method instead.

But in 2013’s HB 2, Texas officials – with no medical expertise – forced women and doctors to strictly adhere to the outdated FDA rules, tacking on expense and potential bodily danger for women. The law also forces women to take the second dosage at the physician’s office, rather than at her home. However, the updated label states the second pill may be taken at a “location appropriate for the patient.”

"Today science has prevailed where the state legislature has failed. This is another affirmation from the FDA that medication abortion is a safe and effective option to end an early pregnancy,” said Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, in a statement. “Politicians are not medical experts, yet politicians have written these restrictions and passed them into law with the end goal of cutting off access to safe, legal abortion. This news is a victory for Texas women.”

Planned Parenthood reports that after HB 2 went into effect, the number of women seeking abortion through medication dropped from 40% to less than 1%. Abortions providers sought to block the medication abortion rules in court but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied their challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on other parts of HB 2 before June.

For more, check out our War on Women's Health page.

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abortion rights, House Bill 2

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