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Planned Parenthood: Medication Abortion Surge Comes to Texas After FDA Label Change

Teddy Wilson

"From our perspective, it’s restoring options for women. It’s putting decisions back in the hands of women instead of politicians at the Capitol," said Sarah Wheat, chief external affairs officer at Planned Parenthood.

Texans are using medication abortion in increased numbers since federal regulations were revised in March, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas officials said. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a label change for mifepristone, a drug used during medication abortions. The change brings federal regulations in line with scientific research and evidence-based medicine.

Sarah Wheat, chief external affairs officer at Planned Parenthood, told the Star-Telegram that the significant increase in medication abortions has had a positive impact on reproductive health in a state that has seen myriad anti-choice measures destroy access to legal abortion care. 

“We have seen a fourfold increase in the number of our patients choosing medication abortion since the FDA updated its protocol,” Wheat said. “From our perspective, it’s restoring options for women. It’s putting decisions back in the hands of women instead of politicians at the Capitol.”

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There are no official statistics yet showing the increase in medication abortion reported by Planned Parenthood officials since the FDA’s label change.

Texas lawmakers in 2013 passed HB 2, an omnibus anti-abortion bill that contained multiple restrictions on medication abortion. Former Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed the bill into law in July 2013.

HB 2 prohibits dispensing abortion-inducing drugs (the mifepristone-misoprostol regimen) by anyone other than a physician, and requires that the administration of the drugs follow FDA protocols as “outlined in the final printed label of the abortion-inducing drug.” 

HB 2 has had a significant impact on people seeking abortion care, in part because Texas law mandates pregnant people make four separate visits to a physician before receiving a medication abortion. Between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women of reproductive age attempted to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance, according to a 2015 Texas Policy Evaluation Project study.

Anti-choice legislators have for years restricted access to medication abortion by charging that off-label use of abortion-inducing medication posed a danger to pregnant people. 

Mark S. DeFrancesco, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), said in a statement after the FDA revised the medication abortion regulations that the change was consistent with available scientific evidence. 

“Medication abortion, performed through a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, has provided a safe, effective option for induced abortion that has benefitted millions of women,” DeFrancesco said.

Serious complications from medication abortion occur in less than 0.4 percent of patients.

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