April 19, 2013

Bill to regulate chemical abortion, improve informed consent passes in Indiana General Assembly

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A bill to regulate chemical abortion and improve informed consent law for abortion in Indiana passed both the House and Senate, and is headed to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk. The Church supports the proposal.

Senate Bill 371 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 the abortion-inducing drugs to examine the woman in person, and schedule follow-up care. It prohibits telemed practices where a doctor could use Skype to discuss options with the pregnant mother rather than an in-person exam.

The bill was amended to include Senate Bill 489, which requires a woman seeking an abortion to see an ultrasound and hear fetal heart tones, unless she certifies in writing that she declines. It also 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 abortion clients.

Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, House sponsor of the bill, said, “It amends the definition of abortion to specifically include abortions by surgical procedures and by abortion-inducing drugs—RU 486. It does not include the morning after pill, otherwise known as ‘Plan B.’

“RU 486 is a regimen of drugs starting with an artificial steroid that block progesterone, which is a hormone that is needed to continue a pregnancy,” she continued. “After two days, another drug is given to induce contractions to help expel the embryo.”

According to Negele, an abortion-inducing drug is defined specifically as a drug that is designed and dispensed with the intent to terminate a pregnancy.

Negele said the bill makes changes to the consent form a woman must sign before having an abortion. All abortions, both surgical and chemical, are treated the same with respect to notices and informed consent.

The representative explained that in order for a woman to have a chemical abortion, a doctor will have to assess the gestational age of the baby in order to determine if it is an appropriate use. Additionally, the doctor will have to rule out an ectopic pregnancy, including “a very serious side effect, including death” if RU 486 is used.

The bill specifically states that an abortion-inducing drug may not be administered to a woman after nine weeks, and that an abortion must be surgical unless the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug to do so. The bill attaches criminal charges, a Class C felony, to any doctor who dispenses an abortion-inducing drug for an abortion after nine weeks, mandating that abortions conducted after nine weeks would be surgical.

Speaking from the House floor, Negele said, “This is a very emotionally charged issue, and I want you to understand my intent is to seek out a remedy to safeguard our young women who have chosen this path. I know that the most common age to use this type of abortion is between 18 and 25 years old. Because I have a 21-year-old daughter, this really hits home.”

State Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, and State Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, spoke in opposition to the bill.

Errington, a former Planned Parenthood employee, said she did not think the clinics providing chemical abortion needed to meet the same standards as those performing surgical abortions.

Lawson asked her fellow lawmakers why they haven’t done more to help children that are already born rather than attack clinics that offer abortion. “Why aren’t we talking more about the basic right of a pregnant woman?”

State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, author of Senate Bill 371, said, “We’re just trying to control and regulate abortion-inducing drugs which are not regulated in the state of Indiana. We’re talking about the life of the mother and of the child.”

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), who serves as the official spokesman on state and federal issues for the Church in Indiana, said, “Getting Senate Bill 371 passed is a pretty big victory because it will keep this type of abortion from expanding, and that’s a positive step forward.”

Tebbe, who expects the governor to sign the bill in the weeks ahead, added, “The expansion on informed consent for all types of abortion is also an important piece of the bill because it is important that women be fully informed before making an important life-changing decision. 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.”

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

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