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Ark. Legislators Introduce Bills To Ban Telemedicine Abortion Services

Ark. Legislators Introduce Bills To Ban Telemedicine Abortion Services

January 20, 2015 — Arkansas lawmakers on Thursday proposed bills (SB 53, HB 1076) that would require physicians to administer medication abortion drugs in person and mandate in-person follow-ups, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (Lauer, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/16).

State Sen. Missy Irvin (R) and state Rep. Julie Mayberry (R) proposed the bills. The measures would require abortion providers to administer the drugs in person and "make all reasonable efforts" to see a woman who took the drugs within 12 to 18 days for a follow-up. The bills would allow the woman who received the abortion or the men involved in the pregnancy to sue a physician who does not follow the requirements.

According to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle, the bills currently have more than 50 co-sponsors in the state House and Senate, including Arkansas Senate President Jonathan Dismang (R) (Merchant, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15). The measures have been assigned to the state House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor committees and could be considered as early as this week, the Democrat-Gazette reports (Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/16).

Bills Designed To Prevent Abortion Medication Via Telemedicine

Supporters say the measures will help protect women's health by preventing medication abortion from being administered through telemedicine services. Specifically, they said the measures will help prevent physicians from missing any complications from the procedure.

However, supporters acknowledged that they are unaware of any providers offering such services. Mayberry said, "We're trying to prevent it from happening" in the future (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15).

Separately, Irvin noted that Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, an abortion provider in the state, has administered telemedicine abortions in other states (Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/16).

Reaction

PPH CEO Suzanna de Baca said the proposed legislation "is not about improving the lives or the safety of Arkansas women." She noted that women who receive medication abortions via telemedicine "receiv[e] the same counseling, exam and information face-to-face with a medical professional" as women "with an in-person visit with a doctor." PPH spokersperson Angie Remington added that PPH does not currently offer medication abortion in the state (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15).

Separately, Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said "[O]bviously, there is one intention and that's to make access to safe, legal abortions more difficult. It has nothing to do with the safety of the woman" (Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/16).

Meanwhile, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he has not yet reviewed the measures (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 1/15).