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Amid an uncertain future for U.S. reproductive rights, the FDA says it will lift certain restrictions on abortion medication

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In this photo illustration, a person looks at an abortion pill (RU-486) for unintended pregnancy from Mifepristone displayed on a smartphone on May 8, 2020, in Arlington, Va. Under federal law, even in states where telemedicine abortion is legal, there are strict rules surrounding how the pill is dispensed.
Olivier Douliery
/
AFP via Getty Images
In this photo illustration, a person looks at an abortion pill (RU-486) for unintended pregnancy from Mifepristone displayed on a smartphone on May 8, 2020, in Arlington, Va. Under federal law, even in states where telemedicine abortion is legal, there are strict rules surrounding how the pill is dispensed.

Due to safety concerns during the pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspended decades-old rules requiring the abortion drug mifepristone — one of two drugs used to end a pregnancy in the first 10 weeks — be acquired from a physician in person.

On Thursday, the FDA announced it will move to permanently loosen restrictions that prevented mail-order access to the medication.

This option for terminating an early pregnancy — two pills, taken 48 hours apart, often at a patient's home — is far cheaper than a surgical abortion.

Abortion medication continues to play a major role in the battle over reproductive rights in the U.S., as the Supreme Court considers cases from Mississippi and Texas that threaten to overturn the landmark Roe vs. Wade. decision guaranteeing the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Amid the uncertain future of abortion rights in America and right-wing lawmakers' efforts pushing to ban abortion medication at the state and national levels, access to mifepristone has become one of the abortion-rights movement's top priorities.

A new Texas law went into effect on Dec. 1 that adds penalties for prescribing abortion pills via telehealth or by mail, including jail time and fines up to $10,000. What does last week's announcement mean for states including Texas with laws like this on the books?

Why did the FDA opt to lift certain restrictions on mifepristone but keep others in place?

Could this decision reshape the reproductive health war? Will there be legal challenges?

Guest: Alice Ollstein, health care reporter for POLITICO Pro

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at 210-615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource to join the conversation.

*This interview was recorded on Monday, December 20.

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