INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would create tougher regulations for clinics prescribing abortion-inducing drugs passed a House committee Wednesday.
Senate Bill 371 would require clinics dispensing the drugs to meet the same standards as a surgical abortion center. The bill, which already passed the Senate, was approved by the House Public Policy Committee in an 8-5 vote.
Planned Parenthood said the requirements would force them to shut down some of their operations at their clinic in Lafayette, but other Planned Parenthood facilities would be “grandfathered in,” and would not face the same restrictions.
“(The bill) would cut back on access,” said Liz Carroll of Planned Parenthood. “(And) force women to make choices that may not be in their best interest, including purchasing medication on the Internet.”
Lawmakers added amendments to the bill that specified patients could only be prescribed an abortion-inducing drug up to the ninth week of pregnancy unless the FDA said otherwise. The bill would also take effect six months later than originally proposed, giving clinics more time to comply. Rules requiring an additional ultrasound before the procedure were dropped from the original bill.
Some opponents wondered if the bill should have been heard by a different committee instead.
“This is a health issue, this is a women’s health issue,” said Kristin Hollister, who showed up to testify against the bill. “Why aren’t we dealing with this in a health committee?”
One supporter read a letter from a woman name Leslie, who took the abortion inducing drug RU-486 when she was 21 years old.
“Nothing could have prepared me for what I would experience or the emotional pain I would carry with me for years,” Leslie wrote. “I was crying hysterically and begging to die because the pain was more than I could handle.”
In fact, the bill’s sponsor said women have died from the drug – a key reason why she’s pushing for more protection for patients.
“Of the 14 deaths, and many may say that is a very low statistic, but you tell that to a parent who lost a daughter,” said Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica. “I don’t think that’s an acceptable statistic and I want to see that improved upon.”
Opponents of the bill told the committee the regulations could have the reverse effect.
“(The bill) is not about protecting women,” said Reba Wooden of the Center for Inquiry. “By making legal and safe abortion less accessible, it is endangering the health of women. By making it harder to get a medication abortion it will drive women to the Internet to obtain medications that have no doctor oversight.”
“There are about a million and a half women who have taken this medication,” said Carroll. “14 deaths have occurred over 11 years, so I think we can say the number of serious adverse events is pretty small.”
“The more we have small piddly bills like this eat away at women’s access to proper health care, it’s very upsetting,” said Hollister.