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Bill would tighten abortion drug rules

– Clinics giving out abortion-inducing drugs would be subject to more rules and regulations under a bill passed 7-5 Wednesday by the Senate Health Committee.

GOP lawmakers are targeting medical abortions using drugs such as RU486 because they allege the drugs have higher complication rates than surgical abortions.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the state’s abortion clinics performed 1,621 medical abortions in 2011, down from 1,967 in 2010.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, authored Senate Bill 371 and said he thinks the state has a right, and an obligation, to protect the safety of women and give a voice to those who don’t have one.

“We are not practicing medicine,” he insisted.

Under current law, abortion clinics that offer surgical abortions must meet certain physical standards, such as hallway width, water fountain requirements and more. Holdman’s bill would apply those physical requirements to facilities that give out chemical abortion drugs.

The only Planned Parenthood of Indiana facility that offers medical abortions but not surgical is in Lafayette, which might have to make structural changes or find a new building.

The legislation also goes further to affect all clinics in Indiana giving out the drugs – but not doctor’s offices or hospitals.

For instance, it requires a physician to examine the woman including giving an ultrasound before dispensing the first pill. Women then take the next pill at home, and the legislation requires the clinic to schedule a follow-up visit within 14 days. During that follow-up, another ultrasound has to be performed to ensure the abortion was complete.

Sue Swayze, of Indiana Right to Life, said surgical abortions are safer and cheaper than medical ones.

“Today this chemical abortion is flying under the radar in our state,” she said. “Greater care needs to be taken to oversee and regulate this.”

Another woman read a letter from a former Indiana resident named Lesley, who experienced severe cramping and emotional distress using the abortion drug. She told of blood that clogged the drain in her shower that she later realized was the remnants of her baby.

“It was even more horrifying than it sounds,” the letter said. “The emotional pain made it unbearable. It is a horrible drug.”

Several doctors testified or sent written letters objecting to the legislature interfering in medical decisions.

Dr. Tucker Edmonds, an Indianapolis physician, said there is no medical rationale that follow-up care be provided by the same doctor who initially gave the pill. And Edmonds said if there has not been additional bleeding or complaints, having an ultrasound is unnecessary and expensive when a simple blood test could determine if pregnancy hormones are gone.

Catherine O’Conner of Planned Parenthood of Indiana said the bill actually puts women at risk by possibly closing access to affordable abortions.

“Limiting access doesn’t mean women won’t have them. It means women will find alternative ways to have them,” such as buying the drugs online and without proper education.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said the bill amazes him because he has fought for years to require church child-care centers to follow the same rules as other child-care facilities. Republicans have fought the bill because it would require structural changes for some entities.

“It disturbs me to the core,” he said. “We have a job here and it is to protect every child – born and unborn.”

The legislation now moves to the full Senate along with Senate Bill 489, which also passed the committee. It widens the information abortion clinics are required to give those seeking abortions.

nkelly@jg.net

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