Google searches for the term “abortion pills” rose to an all-time high on May 3, the day Politico published a leaked draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The two-drug regimen of medication abortion, as it’s clinically known, has been available since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2000. People have been able to get the pills by mail since April 2021, when the FDA suspended enforcement of a requirement that the first pill be administered in person. The agency made that option permanent in December.
But the possibility that a constitutional right to abortion may cease to exist has given rise to a new set of questions about whether states can legally and logistically stop residents from getting and taking the pills. The landscape is especially complicated, two legal experts said, given that the medications are federally approved.
“Even though the federal government can say, ‘No, we think that it’s fine for providers to prescribe this medication,’ states can turn around and say, ‘Sure, but we have the authority to regulate what providers do, and we want to make it illegal,'” said Khiara M. Bridges, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.