Washington D.C., Jan 23, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).
President Joe Biden issued a memorandum on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, directing federal agencies to support wider access to abortion pills.
In his memo, Biden called upon the secretary of Health and Humans Services, the attorney general, and the secretary of Homeland Security to issue guidance to help women and providers legally obtain abortion drugs.
Biden’s memo comes after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its policy on Jan. 3 to allow any patient with a prescription to obtain mifepristone from her local retail pharmacy, such as CVS or Walgreens.
Shortly following the FDA’s rule change, both CVS and Walgreens quickly announced they would soon begin offering abortion drugs. Rite Aid announced Jan. 19 that it would dispense the drugs at a limited number of pharmacies and through the mail.
Abortion drug distribution remains legally limited to hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices in states such as Texas and Florida.
In yesterday’s memo, Biden vowed to fight state efforts to limit abortion drug distribution.
“My administration remains committed to supporting safe access to mifepristone, consistent with applicable law, and defending women’s fundamental freedoms,” Biden said in the memorandum.
Mifepristone is the first of the two pills used in a chemical abortion. The drug works by cutting off nutrients necessary for a fetus to continue developing. Mifepristone is commonly taken with a second drug, misoprostol, which is ingested 24 to 48 hours later and induces contractions that expel the dead unborn child.
Until this month, FDA policy only allowed certified doctors, clinics, and some mail-order pharmacies to dispense mifepristone.
On Jan. 19, 22 state attorneys general signed a letter addressed to the FDA condemning the administration’s policy change and vowing to uphold state laws limiting the distribution of abortion drugs.
Biden’s memorandum specifically condemned the actions taken by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to ensure the distribution of abortion drugs remains limited to hospitals, clinics, and physician offices, per Florida law.
“In Florida, the governor recently said that major pharmacy chains in the state will not offer mifepristone … These actions have stoked confusion, sowed fear, and may prevent patients from accessing safe and effective FDA-approved medication,” Biden said.
Vice President Kamala Harris announced the memo while commemorating Roe v. Wade in Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital.
Taking a swipe at DeSantis and congressional Republicans, Harris said: “Can we truly be free if so-called leaders … dare to restrict the rights of the American people and attack the very foundations of freedom?”
“Members of our Cabinet and our administration are now directed, as of the president’s order, to identify barriers to access to prescription medication and to recommend actions to make sure … that women can secure safe and effective medication,” Harris said.
Biden’s letter directs federal agencies to issue guidance in support of abortion drug access within the next 60 days.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Catholic bishops condemned the Biden administration’s decision to allow pharmacies to distribute abortion drugs.
“The FDA should protect the life and health of both mothers and children, not loosen safety standards under industry or political pressures,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, the chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “We call on the administration to correct its policy priorities and stand with mothers in need.”
As pro-life chair, Burbidge reaffirmed the Church’s position on life.
“The Catholic Church is consistent in its teaching on upholding the dignity of all life, and that must include care for both women and their children,” he said. “We decry the continuing push for the destruction of innocent human lives and the loosening of vital safety standards for vulnerable women.”
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