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Idaho Telemedicine Abortion Ban Advances; Lawmaker Draws Attention With Unusual Question

Idaho Telemedicine Abortion Ban Advances; Lawmaker Draws Attention With Unusual Question

February 24, 2015 — An Idaho House committee on Monday voted 13-4 to advance a measure (HB 154) that would bar the use of telemedicine in administering medication abortion, the AP/Idaho Statesman reports (Kruesi, AP/Idaho Statesman, 2/23).

The bill now heads to the full state House (Brown, Twin Falls Times-News, 2/23).

Bill Details

The antiabortion-rights group Idaho Chooses Life proposed the legislation. Under the bill, providers would have to conduct a physical exam before administering medication abortion drugs, be capable of providing surgical intervention and attempt to schedule a follow-up appointment, among other requirements.

Further, the measure would allow a patient, her spouse or, if the patient is deceased, her parents to seek damages against the provider for alleged violations of the legislation. In addition, county prosecutors could call for an injunction against the provider.

Idaho lawmakers revised the legislation at the request of a state physicians group. Specifically, the revised bill eliminates language that would have required medication abortion providers to make "all" efforts necessary to ensure follow-up care and added a stipulation that providers make "reasonable efforts" to schedule such appointments. In addition, the revised measure clarifies that follow-up visits can occur with a different provider at the same practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/19).

State Lawmaker's Comments Draw Attention

A comment from state Rep. Vito Barbieri (R) during the hearing over the bill drew national attention on Monday after it spread over social media, according to the AP/Statesman (AP/Idaho Statesman, 2/23).

During the three hours of testimony on the bill before the committee, Barbieri asked physician Julie Madsen, who spoke against the measure, whether doctors can perform remote gynecological exams by having a woman swallow a pill containing a tiny camera. He said such methods are used to perform colonoscopies.

Madsen responded that doing so is not possible "simply because, if you swallow a pill, it won't end up in the vagina." Barbieri called Madsen's response "[f]ascinating," adding, "That certainly makes sense doctor" (Twin Falls Times-News, 2/23).

Barbieri later said he asked the question because Madsen had mentioned colonoscopy camera use and he wanted to make it clear that comparing "a colonoscopy to this particular procedure was apples and oranges." He said he asked "a rhetorical question that was designed to make [Madsen] say that they weren't the same thing, and she did so. It was the response I wanted."

According to the AP/Statesman, Barbieri is a board member of an antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy center in northern Idaho. He voted in favor of the bill (AP/Idaho Statesman, 2/23).

Meanwhile, state Rep. Elaine Smith (D), who opposed the measure, during the testimony called the bill a "legislative overreach on women's health." She added that she "must state that [she] believe[s] in a women's choice for our own health care" (Goins, Idaho News Service/Idaho State Journal, 2/24).