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Pharmacies can now apply for certification to distribute mifepristone with Danco Laboratories or GenBioPro — the two companies in the United States that make it. (Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer, Flickr)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow certified retail pharmacies to dispense abortion pills for the first time, even as more red states seek to restrict abortion access.

This change — which comes in the aftermath of last year’s overturn of Roe v. Wade and the statewide bans and limits on abortions that followed — could expand abortion access.

According to the FDA’s website, the abortion pill mifepristone can now be dispensed to people with a pharmacy prescription. Mifepristone can be used along with another medication, misoprostol, to induce an abortion up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy. 

During the pandemic, the Biden administration temporarily lifted a restriction on abortion access by allowing patients to receive abortion pills by mail. The Justice Dept. just recently declared that restrictions on mail-order shipping of the pills will be permanently lifted.

Before the FDA made the move to include pharmacies, mifepristone could still only be dispensed by a certified health-care provider such as a clinic or hospital.

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Now, pharmacies can apply for certification to distribute mifepristone with Danco Laboratories or GenBioPro — the two companies in the United States that make it. If approved, they will be able to dispense mifepristone directly to patients upon receiving a prescription from a certified prescriber.

“At a time when people across the country are struggling to obtain abortion care services, this modification is critically important to expanding access to medication abortion services,” Danco Laboratories, which markets the pill as Mifeprex, said in a statement.

It’s worth noting that anti-abortion groups have spoken out against abortion pills, and some filed a lawsuit in November asking a court to overturn U.S. regulators’ approval of mifepristone. Still, plenty of people are optimistic about the FDA’s change and are hopeful it will expand abortion access to both brick-and-mortar and online pharmacies.

“Today’s news is a step in the right direction for health equity,” Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement. “Being able to access your prescribed medication abortion through the mail or to pick it up in person from a pharmacy like any other prescription is a game changer for people trying to access basic health care.”

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