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Billings groups react to new rule allowing pharmacies to sell abortion pills

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jan 06, 2023

BILLINGS — Abortion pills are now going to be more widely accessible across the U.S., including Billings, after the FDA dropped a rule that previously prevented pharmacies from selling them.

Large retail pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS have signaled they will undergo steps to carry Mifepristone nationwide, as will a smaller pharmacy in Billings, Pharm406.

"Healthcare providers need to be there for everyone. We can’t be putting our personal views on the frontline, we can’t be saying no. We have to follow the laws and do what’s right for everybody in this country," said Kyle Austin, owner of Pharm406 in Billings, on Friday.

Previously, the drug that can be used up to 10 weeks into pregnancy could only be dispensed by mail-order pharmacies or by certified doctors or clinics. Under new FDA rules, patients will still need a prescription but any pharmacy that agrees to accept those prescriptions can dispense those pills.

The ruling is already dividing opinions.

"I think it’s absolutely a win for access to healthcare particularly access to abortion care. Being able to access your prescribed medication by picking it up at the pharmacy just like you would any other prescription, is really, really important for people trying to access just basic healthcare which abortion absolutely is," said Martha Fuller President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana.

Cindy Nordstog, CEO of Lavie Pregnancy services in Billings, which encourages abortion alternatives, is concerned by the ruling.

“I do not see how such ruling ensures the safety and well-being of any woman. For over 20 years, the FDA limited dispensing medication abortion pills to a subset of specialty offices and clinics due to safety concerns. What “new scientific” information has developed that now brands these pills safer?” she told MTN.

Nordstog cited an FDA report of 28 confirmed deaths following the usage of the drug. Fuller countered, saying Mifepristone has a proven track record of success.

"Whenever there is any change to access, expansion of access in abortion care in this country, there are folks who have criticism of that. I would just say Mifepristone has been used for a really long time, more than 20 years. It's safe, it's effective, it’s been used by more than four million people. So, it’s a very commonly prescribed drug, this really just increases access to it in ways that help patients who live rurally, who might have low incomes and really need to have easier access to healthcare," added Fuller.

Austin believes it will still take about three to six months to get the pills in stock at Pharm406.