The Trump administration made its second request to the Supreme Court to reinstate a rule requiring patients to pick up the abortion pill in person at a medical office or hospital.
The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to reinstate a rule that would require people to pick up an abortion pill in-person through an appointment at a hospital or medical center, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
In July, the rule was placed on hold by a district court judge in Maryland as many medical offices switched to telehealth visits for non-life-threatening checkups and appointments. This allowed patients to get the two drugs used to end early pregnancy through the mail.
In an effort to overturn the lower court ruling, on Tuesday, the Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court, which now has a more conservative-leaning after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
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The administration has temporarily allowed providers to deliver other drugs that typically require an in-person visit, including opioids, without a trip to the doctor. However, the administration has refused to relax the rules for accessing medications for abortion.
As Trump prepares to leave office, the administration argued that with the development of a vaccine, patients should be required once again to attend in-person appointments to get a prescription for the drug.
“The Trump administration’s argument that this travel mandate for abortion patients no longer poses significant COVID-19 risks is violently out of touch with reality,” ACLU attorney Julia Kaye said in a statement Wednesday.
Last week District Court Judge Theodore Chuang reiterated his first ruling and rejected the administration’s request saying that public health risks are still very high due to COVID-19.
“[Vaccines and treatments for COVID-19] have not meaningfully altered the current health risks and obstacles to women seeking medication abortions,” Chuang wrote.
Mifepristone, used in combination with another pill called misoprostol, is a less-invasive, FDA-approved drug used to end an early pregnancy or manage miscarriage. Chuang’s ruling back in July has temporarily stopped the Food and Drug Administration from enforcing the requirement that people visit a hospital or medical clinic to receive the medication required for an abortion.
The FDA has been subject to lawsuits over the rule. In May, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists sued the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, noting that other drugs deemed more dangerous than the combination of medications to end a pregnancy are made accessible without an in-person visit to the doctor.
“Their whole behavior throughout this litigation has been extraordinarily aggressive,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lorie Chaiten. The ACLU represents the groups suing HHS and the FDA. She added that the administration has made it easier to obtain “drugs with far greater risk, that are far less safe than mifepristone because of concerns about travel during the pandemic.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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