Last week the Food and Drug Administration made permanent a pandemic-era change that allows women to receive abortion drug mifepristone by mail. This easing of government regulation of health care should be good news for rural women:
Doctors like Nisha Verma said this mail option has been particularly helpful for women in rural areas far from the nearest clinic.
“I think that makes it much more accessible for people where they don’t actually have to physically come into a clinic, they don’t have to expose themselves to COVID, they can do this all from the comfort of their home,” said Verma, an OB-GYN and abortion provider based in Washington, D.C. [Sarah McCammon and Jonathan Franklin, “FDA Relaxes Controversial Restrictions on Access to Abortion Pill by Mail,” NPR: All Things Considered, 2021.12.16]
Keenly interested in preventing any expansion of women’s freedom and medical good sense, the South Dakota Legislature’s Rules Review Committee will get together a week from today, December 27, to consider approving a new Department of Health rule that would prohibit the use of mifepristone and its follow-up drug misoprostol anywhere but in a licensed abortion facility, which in South Dakota means three places: Monument Health in Rapid City or Sanford Medical Center or Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls.
Experts have long held that the requirement was medically unnecessary. “The risks of mifepristone are just totally independent of the regulatory burdens the FDA placed on the drug,” says Greer Donley, assistant professor at the University Pittsburgh Law School, who has studied FDA policy. “Even though it has risks, it’s not risky by any means compared to other drugs that are on the market without any REMS [risk evaluation and mitigation strategy].”
The fatality rate for the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, for example — which is not subject to REMS — is six times higher than mifepristone’s. According to the ACLU, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, mifepristone was the single medication — out of 20,000 FDA-approved drugs — that required patients pick it up at a medical facility, regardless of where they ultimately took the drug [Tessa Stuart, “FDA Drops Restrictions on Abortion Pill, Paving the Way for ‘Virtual’ Clinics in Some States,” Rolling Stone, 2021.12.16].
If South Dakota has a compelling interest in making sure women take mifepristone under a doctor’s watchful eye, then it has an even greater interest in requiring that fragile, aging men seeking nookie take their boner pills under similar surveillance. But evidently men can take care of themselves; only women require the careful intervention of government to protect them from their own health care decisions.
The Rules Review Committee meets Monday, December 27, at 10 a.m. Central in Room 414 of the Capitol in Pierre. They will take remote testimony on this proposed rule, but people wishing to testify must register by the end of today by emailing Kelly.Thompson@sdlegislature.gov. Include your name, whom you represent, city of residence, which rule you’ll be addressing, whether you support or oppose the rule, and whether you will testify remotely or in person.