NYU says it will ‘look at’ carrying abortion pill at health center

An FDA rule change may allow the university to provide medical abortion, a service students have long petitioned for.


Nina Schifano

(Nina Schifano for WSN)

Tori Morales, News Editor

NYU’s Student Health Center Pharmacy is considering becoming certified to dispense a medication used for abortions after student calls for expanded access to the procedure on campus and a change to Food and Drug Administration policies. Pharmacies must comply with the FDA’s guidelines, which were updated in early January to reduce strain on specialized clinics licensed to provide the drug.

Students have long criticized the SHC and Wellfleet, NYU’s student insurance provider, for the organizations’ policies regarding abortion. Concerns worsened in 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a 1973 court case which codified the right to abortion. In October 2022, four months after the landmark case was overturned, about 70 students walked out of classes to protest limited abortion access and advocate for NYU to expand student insurance coverage of elective abortions.

In addition to potentially pursuing certification, the university plans to reevaluate its student health insurance’s coverage of abortion services, according to NYU spokesperson John Beckman. Wellfleet covers medically necessary abortions in full due to a New York state law which requires private insurance companies to cover the procedure, but requires a 20% co-pay for abortions that medical professionals deem elective.

“Almost all medical services and procedures under the NYU student health insurance plan require some kind of co-pay or co-insurance, and that is true of elective abortions, too,“ Beckman said. “The university is going to look at the issue.”

The FDA’s policy changes, which apply to its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies protocol for mifepristone, were released on Jan. 3. They allow pharmacies including the SHC to become certified to dispense mifepristone if they can attest to certain requirements. These include the ability to provide medication within four days of receiving the prescription and a verification that the prescriber is certified to prescribe mifepristone. 

Shortly after the REMS policy change, CVS and Walgreens both announced plans to carry mifepristone, but neither has made a public announcement as to whether any of their pharmacies are certified yet. Currently, the SHC does not carry mifepristone, and instead refers students to outside providers. 

NYU Young Democratic Socialists of America member and CAS sophomore Ryan Jones, who is involved with on-campus reproductive rights organizing, said NYU’s policies create additional challenges for students who are seeking an abortion, especially those who come from states where abortion is more difficult to access.

“We are hoping that NYU can guarantee abortion access without a very lengthy referral process, because abortion is a very time-sensitive procedure,” Jones said. “Having students be able to have that access when we’re on campus is a really big thing that NYU can do to help defend the right to abortion for its students.”

Other universities across the country were already dispensing mifepristone before the FDA’s policy change. According to a 2020 survey by the American College Health Association, 2.5% of health centers at U.S. universities offered medical abortion. In October 2022, Barnard College announced that it would begin offering the medication in fall 2023. In California, law SB-24 — which came into effect on Jan. 1 — requires all on-campus health centers at public universities and colleges to provide medical abortions.

The NYU chapter of YDSA launched a petition in December which called on NYU to provide abortions “on demand without question, without delay, and without cost,” regardless of reason or health insurance status. The petition also demands that NYU and Wellfleet make abortion services available on campus, instead of at off-campus clinics.

Contact Tori Morales at [email protected].