Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) is expected to veto a bill out of the state legislature, which passed on party lines, that would vastly expand telemedicine while also prohibiting prescriptions of any drug on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy list.
The provision’s intention was to prevent wrongful prescribing of potentially harmful drugs via telemedicine. Included on the FDA’s list was an abortion pill typically used to terminate early pregnancies, mifepristone; this measure is the reason behind Gov. Wolf’s inevitable veto.
As of 2019, the FDA classified mifepristone, also known as Mifeprex, as a drug requiring strict medical supervision, given the risks present, and says it should not be prescribed over the internet:
“Mifeprex is supplied directly to healthcare providers who meet certain qualifications. It is only available to be dispensed in certain healthcare settings, specifically, clinics, medical offices, and hospitals, by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber. It is not available in retail pharmacies, and it is not legally available over the Internet. These requirements also apply to the approved generic version of Mifeprex.
Healthcare providers who would like to become certified to prescribe Mifeprex must have the ability to date pregnancies accurately and to diagnose ectopic pregnancies. Healthcare providers must also be able to provide any necessary surgical intervention, or have made arrangements for others to provide for such care. Healthcare providers must be able to ensure that women have access to medical facilities for emergency care…”
The Republican majority passed the measure by a vote of 29-21, with Gov. Wolf’s veto promised on account of an “attack” on women’s rights:
#SB857 has passed with NO support from the @PaSenateDems & @GovernorTomWolf pledged to veto the #antichoice bill when it reaches his desk. @PAHouseGOP & @PASenateGOP refused to remove reproductive health restrictions and undermined #telemedicine access statewide.#StopPABans pic.twitter.com/qX1wY4i62q— Senator Jay Costa (@Senatorcosta) April 21, 2020
We will not allow any politician, caucus or party to restrict women's constitutional right to access abortion in Pennsylvania.— PaSenateDems (@PaSenateDems) April 21, 2020
We hope the Senate GOP will not allow the House Republicans run roughshod over them in the future. pic.twitter.com/c5cUfvZIV0
The restriction on virtual prescriptions for abortion pills is not any additional regulation than what already exists under federal statutes, as the FDA says. By blocking SB857, Pennsylvania Democrats put the need to be outraged over Pennsylvanians in need of telemedicine.