Women’s access to an abortion-inducing pill could expand in states that have sought to limit its use under guidelines issued Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration.

The new guidelines strike directly against laws passed by several states — including Texas, Ohio and North Dakota — that require doctors to adhere to 16-year-old regulations issued by the FDA. Several other states have tried to limit use of the drug, but their efforts face legal challenges around the country.

The new rules allow women to use the medication for 70 days after the start of their last menstrual period, up from 49 days under the previous guidelines. The agency also lowered the dosage of the medication, called mifepristone, from 600 milligrams to 200 milligrams, and made it easier for women to get a prescription for the pill.

The previous requirements had been in place since 2000, but the FDA said in a statement that more recent scientific data showed that it was time for the update.

“After reviewing the supplemental application, the agency determined that Mifeprex is safe and effective when used to terminate a pregnancy in accordance with revised labeling,” the statement said, referring to the brand name of the drug.

Abortion rights groups hailed the move as a long-needed dose of common sense given the history of the medication.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a network of groups dedicated to protecting and expanding reproductive freedoms, said the abortion pill has proven over decades to be safer than Tylenol, Viagra and other common medications used around the world.

“Unlike state and federal anti-choice laws that restrict a women’s access to an abortion, the FDA decision to make mifepristone available to more women in this country is based on science that shows this usage is safe and medically sound,” Hogue said. “It’s high time to put medicine back into the hands of medical professionals and take it out of politicians’ hands.”

Abortion opponents disagreed, arguing that lengthening the time that women can use the pill will lead to more “incomplete” abortions and more risks to mothers. Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a Kansas-based anti-abortion group, said pharmaceutical companies will use the FDA’s decision to persuade more “vulnerable pregnant women” to use the “unpredictable” drug.

“The FDA should be more about protecting the public from exploitative and predatory uses of drugs rather than pandering to Planned Parenthood and the rest of the Abortion Cartel,” Newman said in a statement.

Ohio’s law restricting use of the medication led to a sharp drop in medical abortions. From 2010 to 2011, when the law went into effect, medical abortions dropped to 1,234 from 5,862, according to state health department records.

Contributing: Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer