The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has eased some restrictions on the medication that induces abortion, in a move that is expected to improve access to the procedure in the United States.
The FDA's new policy will allow the use of Danco Laboratories' abortion pill Mifeprex (mifepristone) for up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, compared to the previous policy of seven weeks. Obtaining the pill will still require a prescription, though fewer visits to the doctor will be required.
While most doctors have already been diverging from the old FDA requirements, the new guidelines are a victory for abortion rights advocates who have been fighting laws in states like Texas, North Dakota and Ohio that required providers to adhere to the rules.
The new guidelines also reduces the dosage of the drug from 600 milligrams to 200. New research had found the previous dosage was too high.
The label change is effective immediately.
"It has the potential of opening medical abortion care in more rural areas, because it does not have to be given by a surgical provider," said Vicki Saporta, president and chief executive of the National Abortion Federation, which is an organization of abortion providers. "The FDA label has finally caught up to the evidence based practice in the United States."
According to advocates, the rules on the old labels were based on clinical trials conducted in the late 1990s.
In a statement on its website Wednesday, the American Congress of Obstestricians and Gynecologists said it "is pleased that the updated FDA-approved regimen for mifepristone reflects the current available scientific evidence and best practices, and includes many of the recommendations that ACOG had presented to the agency."