February 3, 2012

Bill to regulate chemical abortion advances in Indiana Senate

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A bill to regulate chemical abortions has moved one step closer to becoming law, and the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) supports the legislation.

Glenn Tebbe, ICC executive director who testified at a Senate Health Committee hearing to support the bill, said, “We believe all life is sacred, and believe those women considering abortion should be fully informed. This bill would provide for informed consent for chemical abortion and proper follow-up care.” (Related: Facts about chemical abortion in the U.S.)

The proposal, Senate Bill 72, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would recognize abortion-inducing drugs and require regulation of them under the category of abortion. It also enhances Indiana’s informed consent law for chemical abortion by requiring women seeking chemical abortion to be informed in the same manner that is required for surgical abortion.

“Chemical abortion is unregulated in Indiana, as it is in many states, as an abortion,” Holdman said. “Yet, chemical abortion can be very traumatic to the patient, very painful to the patient, and may have lifelong side effects.

“The bill requires an in-person exam, which would put an end to telmed practice,” Holdman said.

“Telmed” is a term used to describe medical advice or instructions given by telephone.

“It also requires informed consent, which is currently not required for chemical abortion,” Holdman said. “And it would require the doctors to schedule or offer a 14-day option for a follow-up examination of the patient to make sure the abortion has been completed. The reason for the 14-day follow-up is to make sure there are no blood clots or [tissue] mass that remains which could cause infection.”

The senator said research shows that in many cases a chemical abortion is much more traumatic than surgical abortion.

“The woman is sent home. She will experience excruciating pain, and the doctor testified that it’s much more common for excessive bleeding and cramping to occur. We know anecdotally that some woman have actually seen body parts or the entire fetus,” Holdman said.

Sue Swayze, legislative director for Indiana Right to Life, who testified in support of the bill, said, “all of our abortion-related laws are related to surgical abortion. As chemical or medical abortions take hold, our laws are not keeping up with the latest medical science.”

Senate Bill 72 defines what an abortion-inducing drug is for the first time in Indiana law, Swayze said. It also seeks to regulate what many people feel are misuses of the drugs that we learn about from other states.

“We hear about telmed abortions, where doctors are using Skype rather than being in person to examine the patient,” Swayze said. “But because the risk factors are so much greater for a medical [chemical] abortion rather than for a surgical abortion, and can have devastating consequences, we believe a doctor exam is crucial as is follow-up care.

“Using this drug after the manufacturer’s guidelines of 49 days [of gestation], the complications go way up, and we wanted to provide for proper follow-up care. We know Planned Parenthood prescribes this up to 63 days as it is advertised on their web page.”

Testimony before the Senate Health Committee indicated that when a failed chemical abortion occurs, it must be followed by a surgical abortion, meaning the woman would then need to return to a clinic for a second procedure.

Kathleen O’Connor, public policy director for Planned Parenthood of Indiana, opposed the bill, saying, “SB [Senate Bill] 72 prohibits our ability to provide the highest quality care for those patients who seek a medical abortion” by limiting the way the doctor can treat patients.

“We think it’s inappropriate for government to legislate the care a doctor must provide to his or her patient,” she said.

Dr. John Stutsman, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology for the Indiana University School of Medicine, who serves as medical director for Planned Parenthood, testified in opposition to the bill, saying that he felt it infringed upon the doctor-patient relationship.

“Please leave the practice of medicine to the physicians as the FDA does,” he said.

Holdman disagreed.

“I don’t believe there is anything in this bill that is extreme or over the edge,” he said. “We want to make sure women know in advance what’s going to happen to them in the next few days or weeks ahead and the trauma [that] they may experience.

“And with informed consent, we want to remind them that there’s a human life there. It’s something that needs to be told. Some folks want to keep it hidden and in the dark, but I think it needs to have some light shed on it,” Holdman said.

Senate Bill 72 passed the Senate Health Committee by a 5-4 vote.

Following passage in the Senate, it will move to the House for further consideration.

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

Facts about chemical abortion in the U.S.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that promotes access to abortion internationally, reports that 25 percent of all abortions nationwide are chemical abortions.

The Indiana Department of Health reported in their 2007-08 termination of pregnancy report that there was a 16 percent increase in chemically induced abortions in Indiana.

Four states—Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Tennessee—maintain comprehensive regulations of abortion-inducing drugs and/or prohibit telmed abortions.

“Telmed” is a term used to describe medical advice or instructions given by telephone.

Five states specifically impose minimal administrative regulations on the dispensation of

abortion-inducing drugs—California, Georgia, Missouri, Rhode Island and Texas. Four state laws regulating abortion-inducing drugs are currently in litigation—Arizona, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma. (Source: Americans United For Life)

To view detailed information on Indiana’s abortion statistics, log on to the Indiana Department of Health’s abortion publication called Indiana Induced Termination of Pregnancy Report at www.in.gov/isdh/reports/itp/2007/index.htm. †

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