While the new composition of the United States Supreme Court has raised speculation about the fate of Roe v. Wade, for millions in America the promise of a patient’s right to choose an abortion is already a distant illusion.** Decades of work by anti-abortion policymakers has resulted in prohibitive state and federal funding restrictions and widespread clinic closures. But clinicians, advocates, and researchers are optimistic about one way to expand access: medication abortion. Known colloquially as “the abortion pill,” medication abortion is poised to significantly increase access for patients everywhere, and particularly for low-income patients and those who live in rural areas far from hospitals and clinics.
One of the biggest barriers to medication abortion today is a stringent set of FDA regulations implemented under the guise of patient safety protocols, which evidence suggests are not only medically unnecessary but politically motivated. While researchers and advocates have been working to lift these restrictions for years, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has provided unique circumstances for studying how access would be affected if the restrictions were to be permanently lifted.
In California, there are three legislative steps that the state can take to ensure that Californians have continued access to abortion as guaranteed by the State Constitution, and to expand access to low-income patients and patients in rural areas. First, the State should support the creation of a centralized database for collecting medication abortion data from across the state while restrictions were lifted. Second, the State should remove the dual-ultrasound requirement for Medi-Cal reimbursement. Third, the State should close a loophole in current policy that prevents minors from obtaining medication abortion via telehealth.
It is clear that politicization of reproductive rights will remain a fixture of civil discourse in America for years to come. At the same time, advances in telehealth technology have already provided a glimpse into a future where patients are able to access the reproductive care they need. As a national leader in reproductive justice efforts, California has the opportunity to create lasting impact by exploring efforts to expand access to key patient populations and prepare for a future of true reproductive justice.
California Policy Recommendations for Realizing the Promise of Medication Abortion: How the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Offers a Unique Lens for Catalyzing Change,
18 Hastings Race & Poverty L.J. 265
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_race_poverty_law_journal/vol18/iss2/5