March 27, 2015

Bill to clarify chemical abortion, RU-486 regulation advances

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A bill to clarify the law regulating chemical abortion cleared another hurdle when it passed a House panel by a 10-3 vote on March 17.

Senate Bill 546, authored by Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, provides clarification to a current law regulating chemical abortion, which was ruled unconstitutional.

The legislation enacted in 2013, aimed primarily at the use of RU-486, would require health providers who provide RU-486 to meet the same requirements as surgical abortion facilities. The changes to the law are expected to make the 2013 legislation constitutional, and will allow the law regulating chemical abortion providers to take effect.

Messmer, who presented his bill to the House panel, said Senate Bill 546 was drafted in response to a Dec. 5, 2014, federal court injunction to provisions of Senate Bill 371 that passed and was signed into law in May 2013. The injunction was ordered due to violations of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

He said that Senate Bill 546 was drafted in consultation with the attorney general, the State Department of Health, and the governor’s and speaker’s offices to address equal protection concerns.

Termination of pregnancy reporting requirements to the state department of health are also addressed in Senate Bill 546. The bill removes the language of physician’s office and changes it to a broader definition of health care providers. Health care providers that are involved in less than five chemical abortions per year are exempt from the provisions of the bill.

Messmer said that if Senate Bill 546 passes, the solicitor general will file a motion and ask the district court to lift its injunction precluding state officials to enforce the physical plant requirements.

“We feel the carefully crafted changes set up in Senate Bill 546 when applied uniformly will accomplish this,” Messmer said.

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), who testified before the house panel, said, “We do support the bill. The Catholic Conference affirms that all human life has dignity and value. The Church opposes abortion on principle and recognizes it as an evil.

“However, because it is tolerated by law and civil society, regulation of it is necessary for the well-being and health of the woman and the child as a matter of health and public safety, and to safeguard and promote as much as possible the common good.

“Senate Bill 546 provides for an appropriate regulation of abortion facilities and proper recording regarding abortions conducted,” Tebbe continued. “The Catholic Conference believes the state is fulfilling its responsibility to promote the common good in this bill, and we consider it to be positive public policy.”

Lindsey Craig, director of Family Policy for the governor’s office, said, “I’m here to express my support of the bill. It has really been a team effort with the governor’s office, the department of health, legislators and the attorney general.”

Justin McAdam, general counsel for Indiana Right to Life, said, “We support this bill. We think it’s a good bill and a good approach to fixing the definitional issues and the constitutional issues raised by the Court in this lawsuit.”

If Senate Bill 546 is enacted, and the injunction lifted, provisions of Senate Bill 371 enacted in 2013 will go into effect. Facilities dispensing abortion-inducing drugs will be required to meet the same medical standards as those that provide surgical abortion, including notices and informed consent.

Doctors who prescribe the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 will be required 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 legislation does not include the morning after pill.

Under the bill, 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 serious side effects, including death, if RU-486 is used.

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

According to Dr. Hans Geisler, a retired oncologist and gynecologist and a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, chemical abortion when compared to surgical abortion is more risky. A chemical abortion has a 15.6 percent risk of hemorrhage compared to a 2.1 percent risk from a surgical abortion.

(For more information about the Indiana Catholic Conference, its Indiana Catholic Action Network and the bills it is following in the Indiana General Assembly this year, log on to Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

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