A quiet but monumental shift in abortion access was enabled by the covid-19 pandemic. In July 2020, in response to advocates’ concerns about the risks posed by in-person visits in a pandemic, a federal court placed on hold a long-standing FDA rule that required mifepristone — the first pill in a two-step regimen used in medical abortions — to be dispensed in clinics. After the Trump administration appealed that decision, the conservative-majority Supreme Court agreed to reinstate the rule, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that courts should defer to government experts who set the rules. The Biden administration put the rule back on hold in April during the remaining public health emergency and said it is reviewing the agency’s restriction.
In the meantime, telemedicine abortion operations are growing in some places, although not in such states as Texas and Alabama with strict laws designed to curb or end abortions.
A new slate of digital abortion options like Just the Pill, Hey Jane, Abortion on Demand and Choix proliferated, mailing abortion pills to patients in many states after a telemedicine visit. Carafem, which had been mailing the pills to patients in Georgia before the pandemic as part of a research project, streamlined its process for patients who are eligible for medical abortions.
These services can be a lifeline for patients who...