GOP senator files bill that would ban mailing of abortion pill

A Republican state senator has filed legislation to fight a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowing those with a prescription to obtain the abortion pill through the mail.

Senate Bill 351, filed Monday by state Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, would require pregnant women to see a doctor in person before being able to obtain mifepristone, the abortion pill.

The legislation, supported by 24 Senate Republicans, also says pregnant women would have to sign an “informed authorization consent form” that tells a patient, among other things, that medication abortions can be reversed. Medical groups have said the science does not support assertions made in recent years by anti-abortion activists that medication abortions are reversible.

The Biden administration first allowed the drug to be mailed in April. The coronavirus pandemic has caused a rise in doctor’s visits being conducted by phone or online as the Biden administration temporarily waived the requirement for pregnant women to have in-person visits to gain access to the abortion pill. Last month, the FDA made the temporary allowance permanent.

Anti-abortion groups across the country have pushed state Legislatures to require abortion providers to tell patients that abortions done through medication are reversible, but courts in states such as Tennessee and Indiana have ruled the efforts violate doctors’ First Amendment rights. Six states, including Oklahoma and Texas, passed laws that ban the mailing of the abortion pill.

“In our state we want to make sure we’re protecting women that have become pregnant,” Thompson said. “And when the Biden administration authorized the mail order of the abortion pills without having a physician involved in that process, we feel that that is putting women in grave danger.”

Under the FDA guidelines, doctors must prescribe the abortion pill before it can be sent through the mail, but an in-person visit is not required. When asked how the state could seek to pass a law that is more restrictive than a federal regulation, Thompson, who is not a lawyer, declined to comment.

Kwajelyn Jackson, executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic, said her facility is still seeing patients in person and has not arranged for any abortion pills to be sent through the mail. Still, she said, SB 351 would create additional barriers between patients and abortion care, especially in rural parts of the state where it may be difficult to get to a doctor.

“It certainly is both not surprising and disappointing that even in the face of all of the other obstacles that the state Legislature has tried to put between people and their ability to access abortion care, they still feel compelled to double and triple down on removing all options from people,” Jackson said.

In 2019, the Georgia Legislature approved a bill that bans abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy. The law was put on hold.

First approved by the FDA in 2000, “medication abortion” has increasingly become the preferred method for terminating a pregnancy up until 10 weeks.

Thompson’s bill also would require doctors to tell patients that their abortion could be reversed if they change their mind after taking the abortion pill. Medical groups, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have said the science does not support suggestions that a drug-induced abortion can be reversed.