February 26, 2013 // Local

A bill to regulate chemical abortion, improve informed consent advances

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

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

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, author of SB 371 said his bill 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 the abortion-inducing drugs to examine the woman in person, and schedule follow-up care.

“We’re just trying to control and regulate abortion-inducing drugs, which are not regulated in the state of Indiana,” said Holdman.

“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,” said Holdman. “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 abortion to see an ultrasound and hear fetal heart tones unless she certifies in writing that she declines. It requires the Indiana Department of Health to provide color illustrations, rather than black and white, showing fetal development stages for abortion centers to provide to abortion clients.

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

Tebbe said, “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. 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, retired OBGYN of 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; that a person administering the chemical abortion has hospital admitting privileges and surgical privileges, in case they are needed; 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 risker. Geisler 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,” said Geisler. “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,” said Swayze. “That center needs to be equipped to do so, with medical facility equipment, wider doorways for use of a gurney in case the woman needs to be transported to another medical facility.”

Mark Tuttle, president, 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, said, “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 Hoosier women who would go to the Internet to find cheaper, more dangerous abortion inducing pills. Some who testified in opposition to the bills include: Dr. John Stutsman, an Indiana University School of Medicine professor and OBGYN who serves as the medical director for Planned Parenthood in Indiana; and Rev. Linda Dolby, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Lafayette, and board member for Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, who serves on the Senate Health panel and voted against both abortion proposals, said, “We are narrowing the circumstances and locations available to women who seek reproductive services and in particular abortions … and I strongly vote no.”

Swayze sums-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,” said Swayze. “Let’s face it. 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.”

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