Abortion pills will soon be available in pharmacies. But not in Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule change that allows women seeking abortion pills to get them through the mail, replacing a long-standing requirement that they pick up the medicine in person.

While pharmacies in many areas of the country will soon have the option to provide pills to terminate early pregnancies to those with a prescription, that service will not be available in Wisconsin.

"It is good news for women and people outside of Wisconsin who are looking for more access, but it's the same status quo in Wisconsin," Michelle Velasquez, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin's director of legal advocacy and services, said Wednesday.

Velasquez said the lack of clarity around whether the state's 1849 criminal abortion ban is enforceable, coupled with laws passed more recently that stipulate how women can obtain the abortion pill, make the state an outlier in terms of access to medication abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade in June.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday expanded access to medication abortions by authorizing pharmacies, who become certified through an FDA program, to accept prescriptions from certified providers to dispense mifepristone. Mifepristone is the first of of two medications necessary to terminate a pregnancy up to 10 weeks. The second is misoprostol. Until now, mifepristone had to be dispensed by a doctor's office or a clinic.

But Wisconsin lawmakers over the past decade have gone further, passing laws that required an in-person physical examination, followed by a 24-hour waiting period. The patient would then return to the physician's office to take the first pill.

While people in other states could obtain mifepristone by obtaining a prescription through a telehealth appointment, that practice was also banned by Wisconsin lawmakers in recent years.

"These were barriers to abortion access in Wisconsin even before Dobbs," Velasquez said, referring to the court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling.

According to Planned Parenthood, a medication abortion requires what is commonly referred to as the “abortion pill.” The abortion pill is actually two different medications — mifepristone and misoprostol.

Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down, preventing a pregnancy from continuing. Misoprostol, which was available with a prescription at pharmacies prior to Tuesday's FDA announcement, is taken either right away or up to 48 hours later. It causes the uterus to empty.

Such medication abortions account for more than half of all abortions in the U.S., according to research from the Guttmacher Institute. They are approved to terminate pregnancies of up to 10 weeks.

Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul are challenging the legality of the state's 1849 law that criminalizes abortions. Filed in late June, the case still is pending. If the court determines abortions are again legal in Wisconsin, it will then need to be decided if Wisconsin's laws surrounding medication abortions are preempted by federal law.

"For now, there is no access in Wisconsin," Velasquez said. "People who are electing to have abortion are still needing to continue to leave the state."

Nationally, legal experts foresee years of court battles over access to the pills, as abortion-rights proponents bring test cases to challenge state restrictions.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: FDA ruling will not change abortion pill access in Wisconsin