U.S. regulators lift in-person restrictions on abortion pill

FILE - This Sept. 22, 2010 file photo shows bottles of abortion pills at a clinic in Des Moines, Iowa. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021 loosened some restrictions on the pill mifepristone, allowing it to be dispensed by more pharmacies. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, file)

FILE - This Sept. 22, 2010 file photo shows bottles of abortion pills at a clinic in Des Moines, Iowa. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021 loosened some restrictions on the pill mifepristone, allowing it to be dispensed by more pharmacies. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, file)

The Food and Drug Administration is loosening some restrictions on where women can obtain abortion pills, including a long-standing requirement that the medication be picked up in person.

Officials said Thursday that a scientific review supported broadening access and allowing more pharmacies — including mail-order services— to distribute the medication.

But prescribing will still be limited to doctors who complete special certification. Additionally, the agency said dispensing pharmacies will have to be registered with the agency.

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The decision is the latest shift in the polarized legal battle over medication abortion, which has only intensified amid the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is certain to spur legal challenges and restrictions in Republican-led states amid the ongoing battle over abortion.

Earlier this the year the FDA stopped enforcing the in-person dispending requirement because of the pandemic. Under Thursday’s decision, the agency will permanently drop the rule, which has long been opposed by medical societies and pro-abortion groups.

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