February 9, 2018

Abortion regulation bill passes Senate, moves to House

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A bill to enhance Indiana’s informed consent law for abortion passed the Senate, and moved to the House for further consideration as the Indiana General Assembly reaches its halfway point in the 2018 session.

The Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), the state’s public policy arm for the Church in Indiana, supports the bill.

Glenn Tebbe, ICC executive director who serves as the public policy spokesperson for the bishops in Indiana, said Senate Bill 340 strengthens Indiana’s law by updating its requirements for abortion centers, their inspection and reporting.

“The state’s compelling interest in public health and safety, and the health of the mother, clearly justifies these changes and regulations regarding abortion facilities and reporting,” he said.

The bill, which passed the Senate 38-11, makes various changes to the abortion law concerning license applications and inspections of abortion facilities, including the reporting of abortion complications to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). The bill is authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle; Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, and Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis.

Brown said the bill keeps Indiana current with the progression of health care. She raised concerns about women who obtain “black box” drugs over the Internet and those drugs’ associated risks. Senate Bill 340 would allow the state to track the complications from these drugs. “Black box” drugs are prescription drugs which carry the strictest labeling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to reasonable evidence associated with potential serious hazards of its use.

“Unfortunately, as we have seen with the opioid crisis in the state, a lot of the drugs are coming in through China and illegal ways through the Internet,” said Brown. “We cannot affect that in this bill, but at least we can make sure the citizens in this state are protected, and that they have the knowledge that they need to make an informed decision.”

Holdman said, “Another very important piece of this [bill] is providing information to the pregnant mother with regard to Indiana’s Safe Haven Law, and let her know there is one other option available to them if they wish to relinquish that child for adoption.”

Young said abortion facilities would have to comply with FDA guidelines. He added that records would be kept documenting that the risks were communicated by the physician to the mother. The number of prior terminated pregnancies and the gestational age of the fetus at the time of the chemical abortion would also be reported.

The manufacturers of non-surgical abortion drugs provide instructions to be read prior to taking the drugs. “We want to make sure the patient got it, they understood it, and there is a record of that in her file,” said Young.

Sue Swayze of Indiana Right to Life supports the plan and said some individuals think taking pills is easier than having a surgical abortion. “The pills are actually harsher and have more side effects on a woman’s body, and could potentially lead to dangerous complications,” she said.

By using the pills to induce abortion, Swayze says women are going to have some unfortunate complications and need medical help, because research shows the complications are four times higher than with surgical abortions.

Dr. Christina Francis, a board-certified OB-GYN who practices in Fort Wayne, said the current complication rates for abortion are “all over the board” due to a lack of consistent reporting. “In order to allow women to make a truly informed choice, we must have accurate information to give them,” she said. “Unfortunately, many abortion providers report a complication rate of zero or nearly zero because many of them do not see their complications. Many women [go to] a local emergency room, and their complications are not tied back to their abortion. The next woman going to that abortion provider is not being presented with the true risk of complications.”

Francis, who serves as president of the American Association of Pro‑life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an organization representing more than 5,000 women’s health care facilities nationally, said that medication abortions account for 30 percent of all abortions, and that number is increasing. “Anyone who cares about women’s health and autonomy should support this bill,” she said. “It does not infringe upon their rights. It guarantees that they get accurate information so that they can make an informed choice.”

Lynne Bunch, a registered nurse and vice president of patient services for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said Senate Bill 340 is not about enhancing patient safety, nor does it address the driving force behind the need for abortion, which is unintended pregnancy. She said the bill is about limiting access to safe and legal abortion through the unnecessary reporting and punitive action on providers.

Senate Bill 340 will be sponsored in the House by Reps. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville; Timothy Wesco, R-Oceola; and Ronald Bacon, R-Chandler.

For more information on the legislative efforts of the ICC, go to www.indianacc.org.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

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