March 11, 2014 // Local

Abortion-related bills in home stretch toward becoming law

By Brigid Curtis Ayer 

INDIANAPOLIS — Two abortion-related bills designed to clarify Indiana law are in the home stretch toward becoming law. One measure, Senate Bill 292, aims to improve informed consent regarding access to follow-up care and abortion doctor accountability. A second bill, House Bill 1123, would prohibit elective abortion coverage in standard health insurance plans. Both bills passed the second chamber and are expected to become law. The Indiana Catholic Conference supports both bills.

Senate Bill 292, authored by Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, passed the House in a bipartisan vote, 88-9, and the Senate concurred with the House amendment March 6, with a vote of 34-6. The governor is expected to sign the bill.

House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Tom Washburne, R-Evansville, told members of the House Public policy panel, “This is really a simple bill and essentially does four things.”

He said, “It clarifies that the State Department of Health may inspect abortion clinics one time per calendar year and may conduct a complaint inspection if needed.”

Washburne also said that the bill adds to the informed consent law a requirement that women be given an emergency telephone number 18 hours before the procedure. “Finally, (it requires) that the admitting privileges (of the abortion doctor) be in writing.”

The bill requires an abortion provider to provide an emergency telephone number where the post-abortive woman could call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for medical follow-up care. It also requires a name and telephone number of a hospital where the abortion doctor has medical admitting privileges.

Current law requires abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges in the county or an adjacent county where the abortion is performed or have a back-up doctor that has admitting privileges.

Liz Carroll, vice president of patient services for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, raised concerns about a provision in the bill requiring the back-up physicians’ names to be made available to the State Department of Health as part of the admitting privileges therefore making them accessible to the public. Carroll wanted these physicians’ confidentially protected.

Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, House chairman of the Public Policy Committee offered an amendment to address this concern to protect the anonymity of the back-up doctor, while providing the accountability of the admitting privileges.

He said, “If someone wanted to call the State Department of Health, the department will verify the hospital admitting privileges are on file.”

He said that the document can be sent to anyone requesting this information, yet “the department can redact important information.” The purpose of information redaction allows the abortion physician’s back-up doctor’s identity to remain confidential.

In spite of the changes, Carroll said Planned Parenthood still opposed the legislation calling it “unnecessary.”

Cindy Noe, representing Indiana Right to Life who testified in support of the bill in both the Senate and the House said, “HS 292 is focused on the women’s health,” and making sure the woman has “full knowledge” of who to call and where to go to get follow-up care.

Noe said, “The legislation is necessary to close loopholes in the language, which was committed into law in 2011. It will now give the State Department of Health the tools to determine whether or not the providers are in compliance.”

Micha Clark, representing the Indiana Family Association of Indiana, who supported the bill called the legislation “simply a transparency issue” that public policy leaders want and expect in Indiana.

Waterman speaking from the Senate floor explained to his fellow Senate colleagues that the House changed the original bill.

“This bill dealing with hospital admitting privileges ties the submission of admitting privileges to clinics licensed application instead of having a separate submission. It requires the department of health to verify the information of the admitting privileges.”

House Bill 1123, authored by Rep. Jeffery Thompson, R-Lizton, would prohibit elective abortion coverage in standard health insurance plans. Under the bill, abortion coverage would be covered in a health policy only in cases of rape or incest or if necessary to avert death or substantial and irreversible impairment of major bodily functions of the pregnant woman.

“Unless we bring further clarity to this issue, what’s going to happen is that private health insurers will be required to cover abortion,” said Thompson. “Some private insurance companies should not be forced to do so because of religious beliefs.”

House Bill 1123 was approved with bi-partisan support by the House by a vote of 80-14, on Jan. 24. The Senate amended the bill to extend the effective date of the bill giving insurance providers more time to make adjustments to their policies. The Senate passed the bill March 4, 37-10. The bill goes back to the House for a final vote to approve or disapprove the Senate amendments.

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference said that even though the Senate amended the bill, he believes the House will concur or agree with the Senate amendments and the governor will sign the bill.

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