This week, Florida healthcare providers received a letter from state officials warning that they should continue to comply with state abortion laws following FDA’s relaxed rules on abortion medication prescribing.
According to News4JAX, the letter from the Agency for Health Care Administration in Florida referenced several state laws that regulate access to abortion medications. For example, the notice highlighted a law stating that “[n]o termination of pregnancy shall be performed at any time except by a [licensed] physician.”
The agency’s notice also emphasized that it is “unlawful for any person to perform or assist in performing an abortion on a person, except in an emergency care situation, other than in a validly licensed hospital or abortion clinic or in a physician’s office.”
Additionally, the notice also made clear that violations of those laws could result in criminal penalties, and that the state would refer “any evidence of criminal activity” to local law enforcement, News4JAX reported.
The Agency for Health Care Administration sent the letter to healthcare providers following the recent FDA changes made to the regulation on mifepristone (Mifeprex) that allows patients to pick up the abortion pill at brick-and-mortar retail pharmacies. Mifepristone is an abortion medication that can be used to end an intrauterine pregnancy through 10 weeks gestation.
Florida’s restrictions on abortion and access to abortion medication means that healthcare providers and pharmacists in the state cannot take advantage of the FDA’s recent changes and should be careful about making changes to their own practices, according to Daniel Grossman, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, and the director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health.
“They need to take it very seriously,” he told MedPage Today. “Given those restrictions, it wouldn’t be possible to prescribe the medication at a pharmacy to be picked up or mailed directly to the patient.”
Grossman emphasized that this is part of a long-term trend in many states toward limiting access to abortion services, including medication like mifepristone.
“Over the past 15 years — but even over a longer period of time — there have been a growing number of severe restrictions that have been imposed at the state level in many states, and some of those states have now completely banned abortion,” Grossman said. “In those states where abortion is still legal, some of them continue to have these very serious restrictions.”
This reality has been complicated by the national focus on access to abortion, especially with the changes to the FDA’s regulation on mifepristone, Grossman said.
“Some of the reporting has been a little confusing, and almost made it sound like this was a change that affects the availability of the mifepristone nationwide, and that’s not really true,” Grossman said. “So physicians in those states won’t be able to take advantage of this advance.”
Nevertheless, residents in states with severe abortion restrictions, like Florida, may still act on FDA’s changes on mifepristone in special circumstances.
For instance, “if they were near the border of a state that was allowing prescription of mifepristone perhaps they could have a telehealth visit and pick up the medication just across the border at a pharmacy,” Grossman said.