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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ind. Law - "Abortion-drug measure part of lawmakers' incremental approach against procedure"

The Indianapolis Star's Mary Beth Schneider has a long, front-page story today on yesterday's committee hearing on SB 371. It begins:

In a year when Arkansas and North Dakota lawmakers have grabbed national headlines by banning most abortions, Indiana’s legislature is choosing a chisel over a sledge-hammer.

Rather than a sweeping anti-abortion bill, the Indiana House and Senate are advancing a bill to regulate abortion-inducing drugs — and potentially stop one Lafayette clinic from prescribing them at all.

But anti-abortion advocates in Indiana are saying the state is taking an incremental approach, that in the end may do more to slow abortions than an attention-grabbing law that simply gets tied up in legal cases.

And abortion rights advocates agree. Through such incremental changes made year after year, said Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, Indiana lawmakers are succeeding in making it more difficult for women to access a procedure that is safe and legal.

“Legislators really intend to chip away at Hoosier women’s access to abortion,” Cockrum said.

It’s a strategy that hasn’t changed in Indiana, even though this year Republicans, who are overwhelmingly anti-abortion, hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate.

Under a bill approved 8-5 Wednesday by the House Public Policy Committee, a clinic that provides a drug that causes abortion, such as RU 486, would have to meet the same building standards as a surgical unit — complete with wider halls and doorways to accommodate gurneys, a recovery room and sterilization equipment for surgical tools.

For Cockrum, that measure is unnecessarily onerous and, unless expensive changes can be made by Jan. 1, it may force the group’s Lafayette clinic to stop prescribing RU 486 for women who want an abortion.

From later in the long story:
Senate Bill 371, which passed the House committee today and is now headed to the full House for debate, initially went further. When it passed the Senate, it required women getting an abortion drug to have an ultrasound. Physicians had said that would mean an invasive transvaginal probe, since the drug typically is given in the early weeks of pregnancy when the non-invasive ultrasound through the abdominal wall doesn’t work well.

Now the bill simply leaves in place current law, which requires physicians to use appropriate medical standards to determine the fetal age.

The House version also initially included a provision that Planned Parenthood of Indiana said could have led to all nine abortion clinics in Indiana closing if they couldn’t meet new building code standards put in place in 2006. Currently, they are grandfathered in by the state Department of Health.

The House committee quickly excised that provision, so that now the bill only applies to any newly licensed facility — including that Lafayette clinic.

But the committee also added a provision banning the use of an abortion-inducing drug after nine weeks of gestation, and requires a physician to examine the woman in person before prescribing it. * * *

Critics questioned why, if the changes are needed, they apply only to clinics and not to the offices of physicians who prescribe an abortion-inducing drug. And Cockrum said it amounted to a coordinated national effort to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics.

Dan Carden's story in the NWI Times includes:
Under the revised legislation, facilities that only provide abortion pills would be required to be licensed as an abortion clinic and meet the same building and equipment standards as facilities that perform surgical abortions.

That includes, among 36 single-spaced pages of other requirements, a reception area with at least two waiting room chairs per examination room, a waiting room toilet and drinking fountain, procedure rooms that are at least 120-square-feet in size, scrub facilities, corridors at least 44 inches wide and 3-foot-wide doors throughout.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 28, 2013 08:49 AM
Posted to Indiana Law