The measure now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R). According to Hutchinson spokesperson J.R. Davis, the governor opposes abortion rights but "would like to take the time to read the final language of the bill as with any other measure" (DeMillo, AP/THV11, 3/17).
The bill would require that medication abortion drugs be prescribed in accordance with guidelines and dosage limits set by FDA when the drugs were initially approved. The FDA protocol is no longer current and goes against common medical practice.
Specifically, the bill would require providers to administer a dose higher than what is commonly prescribed. In addition, under the bill, medication abortions could not be administered past seven weeks of pregnancy, rather than the nine-week limit that is used in practice.
The bill also stipulates that only physicians could provide medication abortion drugs to patients. It would require such physicians to have a contract with another physician who has agreed to handle any complications. The second physician would have to hold admitting and gynecological/surgical privileges at a nearby hospital that can handle such cases.
Providers found in violation of the requirements could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face civil penalties and disciplinary action (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/6).
State Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R), who supported the bill, said it would "protec[t] women" and claimed that off-label use of the drugs is "dangerous and potentially deadly."
However, state Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram (D), who opposed the bill, asked why the Legislature would determine dosage requirements for abortion medication but not for other drugs. He said, "We're getting into some choppy waters here when we mandate what a doctor can and can't do when prescribing medicine to ... patients" (AP/THV11, 3/17).