With restrictions on surgical abortions in place while a state law awaits a Supreme Court ruling, women in Texas have benefited from greater access to another option, an abortion pill, the Dallas Morning News reported. Since regulations over mifepristone, a pill used to induce abortion early in pregnancies, were relaxed by the Food and Drug Administration in late March, usage by women in Texas has gone up tremendously, according to Planned Parenthood.
“We have seen a fourfold increase in the number of our patients choosing medication abortion since the FDA updated its protocol,” Sarah J. Wheat, Planned Parenthood’s chief internal affairs officer told the Morning News.
The 2013 Texas law placing restrictions on facilities that perform surgical abortions also imposed restrictions on medication abortions, like those that use the mifepristone pill. Women had to visit a clinic four times when taking the pill, which was a burden, as some women had to travel great distances to get to a clinic. This was made even more difficult when a number of clinics closed down after the law went into effect. The new regulations require fewer visits.
Lawmakers who oppose the new FDA regulations, including Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz, wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, saying, “[the] powerful abortion drug has been associated with serious adverse events including hemorrhaging, severe infections and even deaths of mothers who have taken it.”
Wheat defended the agency’s decision, saying, “The FDA is the national expert in how medications are provided, and they approved these updates.”
The new FDA regulations say that women only need 200 milligrams of the drug, instead of 600, with fewer doctor visits, and they are also now allowed to take it up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy. They had been capped at seven weeks before the new regulations went into effect.
The change is the result of new evidence that indicates that women can take the drug later in their pregnancy, and with a lower dosage that can have fewer side effects, according to the New York Times. The original label for the drug contained information based on studies from the 1990s.