Reason Roundup

FDA Reverses Course on Abortion Drugs by Mail

Plus: Legal battle over published arrest records, senators introduce cruise ship legislation, and more...


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will once again allow abortion-inducing drugs to be prescribed remotely and sent via mail. Typically, a patient seeking a medical abortion—that's the type induced via prescription drugs mifepristone and misoprostol—must be prescribed and receive the drugs at a physician's office, hospital, or medical clinic, per FDA rules. But the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a lot of legal back-and-forth over this.

Last summer, a federal court temporarily suspended the in-person prescription requirement. The in-person prescription requirement during pandemic times presents a "substantial obstacle" (of the sort barred by Roe v. Wade) to women seeking abortions, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang ruled in July 2020, issuing a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the FDA's in-person rules until at least 30 days after an end to the public health emergency was declared.

The Trump administration challenged this ruling, and the Supreme Court asked in October that the court reconsider, given that "relevant circumstances" may have changed. Then, in January, the Supreme Court granted the Trump administration's request to ignore the district court's ruling while a federal appeals court was hearing the matter. That meant that being prescribed abortion drugs once again required an in-person visit.

Now, the FDA says the requirement is again suspended.

In an April 12 letter to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock wrote that a review of the literature does "not appear to show increases in serious safety concerns (such as hemorrhage, ectopic pregnancy, or surgical interventions) occurring with medical abortion as a result of modifying the in-person dispensing requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic."

As a result, the agency would "exercise enforcement discretion" with regard to in-person dispensing requirements and "the dispensing of mifepristone through the mail either by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber, or through a mail-order pharmacy when such dispensing is done under the supervision of a certified prescriber," Woodcock wrote.

While the suspension is only temporary, it will hopefully pave the way for a more permanent relaxing of the FDA's in-person prescription and dispensation rule. Like with so many other areas of coronavirus-related regulation relaxing, the lack of adverse outcomes associated with this pandemic prescribing experiment should call into question the need for such regulations even in ordinary times.

"By halting enforcement of the in-person dispensing requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA is recognizing and responding to the available evidence—which has clearly and definitively demonstrated that the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone is unnecessary and restrictive," said ACOG CEO Maureen G. Phipps in a statement.


Court considers news reports on arrests for charges that were never prosecuted. A Massachusetts trial court has rejected the "right to be forgotten" that exists in Europe, in a case (G.W. v. Gannett Co., Inc.) involving a news report on a person's arrest on charges that were never prosecuted. "I think that it would sometimes be permissible for state law to treat as libelous (1) the continued display of the initial charges (2) without an update indicating that the charges were dropped; and it would be permissible for state law to extend the statute of limitations for such situations," comments Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy (published on this site). "But here the lawsuit was for invasion of privacy, not for libel; and in any event the statute of limitations on that has long since run."


When will cruise ships be allowed to resume trips? Members of the Senate subcommittee on travel and tourism are pushing for the U.S. to resume allowing international travel into the country and allowing cruise lines to resume. Additionally, several senators, including Florida Republicans Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, "announced a bill that is aimed at overriding the CDC's current framework for getting cruise lines back to sea," reports The Hill. "In this new legislation, called the CRUISE Act, or Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements, lawmakers are calling on U.S. health officials to change current guidelines."


• Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) wants to ban all mergers and acquisitions involving big companies. "His new bill would effectively ban Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook Inc"—along with any company valued at more than $100 billion—"from any deals and would attempt to stop their platforms from favoring their own products over those of rivals," Reuters reports.

Vice explores the extremists targeting Pornhub.

• The National Collegiate Athletic Association comes out against trans sports bans:

• Texas is trying to make it child abuse for parents or guardians to allow a child to take puberty blockers or have other medical interventions for "gender reassignment" purposes. The bill would add to the state's child abuse statute "administering or supplying, or consenting to or assisting in the administering or supplying of, a puberty suppression prescription drug or cross-sex hormone to a child, other than an intersex child, for the purpose of gender transitioning or gender reassignment; or performing or consenting to the performance of surgery or another medical procedure on a child, other than an intersex child, for the purpose of gender transitioning or gender reassignment."

• Things are getting worse in Michigan again:

• Protecting and serving: