March 1, 2013

Bills to regulate chemical abortion, improve informed consent advance

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A bill to regulate chemical abortion in Indiana and another to improve the informed consent law for abortion cleared their first hurdle on Feb. 20 when the Senate health panel passed the proposals. The Church supports both measures.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, author of Senate Bill 371, said his proposal is intended to ensure women’s safety.

The bill requires facilities that dispense abortion-inducing drugs to meet the same medical standards as those that provide surgical abortions. The proposal requires a doctor who prescribes abortion-inducing drugs to examine the woman in person and schedule follow-up care.

On Feb. 25, the Indiana Senate eliminated the requirement for a second ultrasound after a chemical abortion.

“We’re just trying to control and regulate abortion-inducing drugs which are not regulated in the state of Indiana,” Holdman said in discussing his initial bill. “We’re talking about the life of the mother and of the child. I don’t believe what we are asking for is an unreasonable request. We are not prohibiting physicians or abortion clinics from continuing the practice they are engaged in.”

Senate Bill 489, authored by Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, changes Indiana’s informed consent law for abortion requiring a woman seeking an abortion to see an ultrasound and hear the fetal heartbeat unless she certifies in writing that she declines. It requires the Indiana Department of Health to provide color illustrations, rather than black and white ones, showing fetal development stages for abortion centers to provide to clients.

Glenn Tebbe, Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) executive director, who serves as the official spokesman on state and federal issues for the Church in Indiana, testified on Feb. 20.

“We rise in support of both bills under consideration because human life has dignity and value. We believe it is important that women be fully informed before making an important life-changing decision,” Tebbe said. “We believe it is in the best interest of the state to protect the health of the mother as well as the life of the unborn child.”

Dr. Hans Geisler, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist (OBGYN) in Indianapolis, told the Senate panel, “I believe it is important to treat chemical abortions the same way we treat surgical abortions.

“An examination should be required by a physician, and an ultrasound given before any chemicals are given to rule out an ectopic pregnancy, [and] that a person administering the chemical abortion have hospital admitting privileges and surgical privileges, in case they are needed,” he said. “And that the clinic where this is being carried out should be a licensed medical facility, the same as other licensed surgical abortion facilities in Indiana.”

Geisler provided a litany of data demonstrating that chemical abortion, when compared to surgical abortion, is riskier. He noted a chemical abortion has a 15.6 percent risk of hemorrhage compared to a 2.1 percent risk from a surgical abortion.

“This is statically significant,” he said. “I am not advocating surgical abortions. I’m merely pointing out chemical abortions are somewhat riskier.”

Sue Swayze, legislative director for Indiana Right to Life, told lawmakers, “Due to the rapid use of RU 486 in Indiana, we believe Indiana law must begin to recognize, define and regulate its use. The reason we want to regulate chemical abortion is because we can statistically predict the probability of failure rates which are much higher for chemical abortions than with surgical abortion.

“A woman who encounters complications a few days after she takes the abortion-inducing drugs will likely return to the place where she got the pills for treatment,” Swayze added. “That center needs to be equipped to do so with medical facility equipment, [and] wider doorways for use of a gurney in case the woman needs to be transported to another medical facility.”

Mark Tuttle, president of Right to Life of Indianapolis, said, “It makes sense that given the higher complication rates of chemical abortion that the state should require the same licensure and oversight that surgical abortions have.”

Ryan McCann of Indiana Family Institute told lawmakers, “We rise in support of these bills to help women get the information they need and protect them through the law.”

Abortion advocates who testified in opposition of the proposals cited concerns regarding limiting access to abortion would harm women who would go to the Internet to find cheaper, more dangerous abortion-inducing pills.

People who testified in opposition to the bills included Dr. John Stutsman, an Indiana University School of Medicine professor and OBGYN who serves as medical director for Planned Parenthood in Indiana, the largest abortion provider in Indiana.

Also opposing the bill was Rev. Linda Dolby, who ministers at Trinity United Methodist Church in Lafayette and serves as a board member for Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, who serves on the Senate health panel, voted against both proposals.

“We are narrowing the circumstances and locations available to women who seek reproductive services and in particular abortions, … and I strongly vote ‘no,’ ” she said.

Swayze summed up the problem this way. “Today, chemical abortion is flying under the radar in our state, and the abortion industry is not held to standard medical marketplace expectations for patient care and safety.

“Let’s face it,’ she continued. “Women who get abortions aren’t going to file complaints or seek justice when their care is subpar. They assume that the clinic they go to is safe.”

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion. For more information about the Indiana Catholic Conference, log on to )

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