The Biden administration has decided to allow women to receive the abortion pill regimen by mail, without medical consultation, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. But not if the Arkansas legislature has anything to say about it.

.. the F.D.A. requires that the first drug in the two-medication regimen, mifepristone, be dispensed in clinics or hospitals by specially certified doctors or other medical providers. For years, reproductive health experts have urged that the requirement be lifted on the grounds that there are no significant safety reasons for in-person dispensing of a pill that women are then legally allowed to take on their own in any location, and that the restriction places the greatest burden on low-income women and those in areas with limited access to abortion providers

For several years, with the F.D.A.’s permission, researchers have been conducting a study that provides telemedicine consultations to women seeking abortions and mails them the pills. Their research has found the approach to be safe and effective.

Telemedicine abortion is prohibited in Arkansas.


It’s questionable whether the Arkansas legislature can interfere with the interstate commerce of purchasing pills by mail. But it has attempted to do so this session, expecting this development.

The governor has signed into law a bill that asserts:


It is unlawful for any manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person to provide any abortion-inducing drug via courier, delivery, or mail service.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who is already rushing to take advantage of an anti-abortion ruling in another judicial circuit on a different topic, surely will be poised to defend this.

The opening up of access to the pills contrasts sharply with recent actions by the Arkansas legislature.


The legislature has voted to make it nearly impossible for women to receive abortion pills from an accredited doctor at a clinic visit. Bills have included required and inaccurate counseling; a three-day waiting period and a constitutionally dubious, unnecessary and difficult-to-meet requirement on having contracts with hospitals and ambulance services to handle patients with complications. The legislature has also passed a ban on abortions from conception, a law likely to be enjoined before it takes effect under existing court precedent.