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Existing Ohio law may block FDA abortion drug pharmacy distribution

Abortion Pills
Posted at 5:43 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 19:51:50-05

CLEVELAND — Until Tuesday, RU-486, known as the "Abortion Pill," was only able to be dispensed by doctors in the U.S. This week, the FDA approved pharmacies to distribute RU-486 directly, but a law in Ohio takes that option off the table.

With the new FDA approval, locations like Walgreens and CVS have already said they will carry the pill, also called Mifepristone, but in Ohio, due to a 2004 law, women will have access to the drug, but only from a specific doctor.

When it comes to abortion, Ohio Right to Life has a clear stance.

“An abortion is the purposeful ending of the human lives,” said Elizabeth Marbach, the Director of communications for Ohio Right to Life.

The Abortion Fund has also made their views clear.

“Well, frankly, everyone has the right to have bodily autonomy, whether that is an abortion or having children,” said Sam Woodring, the Communications Coordinator for the Abortion Fund of Ohio.

Earlier this week, the FDA approved retail pharmacies, local drugs stores and major chains to distribute the abortion drug.

“You still need a prescription from a physician. But what's easier is it's not just through certain distributors, you can go to retail pharmacies such as CVS or Walgreens,” said Dr. Anita Somani, a medical doctor and the Ohio state representative for District 11.

But in Ohio, the national FDA approval basically means nothing.

“There was another law that said only physicians could prescribe abortion or these types of medications,” Somani said.

In 2004, Ohio lawmakers passed a law that only allows physicians with certain training and certification to give, sell, dispense or administer the drug.

“The Mifepristone, you can only obtain through certain clinics. You cannot go to a retail pharmacy and get it,” Somani said.

Those with Right to Life are disappointed with the FDA approval.

“We should never put convenience over safety, and that's what this FDA approval is doing,” said Marbach.

The group is happy the Ohio law did what they say was intended.

“When we passed those laws, it wasn't possible to end all abortion, but it was possible to protect women from being harmed,” Marbach said.

The Abortion Fund, however, told News 5 this adds to the barriers women face in the state.

“So, unfortunately, in Ohio right now, you have to have two different visits to a clinic in order to be prescribed abortion pills,” Woodring said.

Those visits must be 24 hours apart and in person. According to the Ohio Abortion Fund, with only nine clinics across the state, most are booked out for weeks. Woodring says the FDA approval would really help, but Ohio law is making it harder.

“Already in Ohio, it's a very big uphill battle in order to get an abortion. So, the fact that we can't use this updated regulation in order to make our access easier, is honestly really devastating,” Woodring said.

In Ohio, abortions are banned after 21 weeks and 6 days. Governor Mike DeWine passed a bill in 2019 that banned abortion after 6 weeks, but it has been blocked until a determination is made on a constitutional challenge.

CVS and Walgreens have said they will carry the drug in other states; we reached out to Discount Drug Mart, who said they are reviewing the approval and working with the state to see if they are allowed to carry the drug.

Anyone who violates the 2004 law faces a fourth-degree felony for unlawful distribution of an abortion-inducing drug.

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