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Neb. Panel Considers Abortion-Related Bills; Okla. Senate Restricts Medication Abortion

Neb. Panel Considers Abortion-Related Bills; Okla. Senate Restricts Medication Abortion

April 28, 2011 — The Nebraska Legislature's Judiciary Committee on Tuesday voted against advancing two antiabortion-rights bills, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

The committee voted 4-3, with one abstention, on a compromise to a bill (HB 690) that would have required minors to obtain written parental consent before accessing abortion services. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lydia Brasch, needed five votes to advance out of committee.

The measure sought to amend a Nebraska law that requires notification of at least one parent before a minor can obtain an abortion. The legislation would have maintained a provision in the current law that requires a minor to obtain a waiver from a judge if she cannot inform her parents of her intent to have an abortion.

The committee also voted 4-3, with one abstention, on a bill (LB 521) by Sen. Tony Fulton (R) that would have barred the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortion (Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald, 4/26). The bill aimed to prevent Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from establishing services in Nebraska to replicate an Iowa program that uses telemedicine to facilitate access to medication abortion in areas without abortion providers. The measure would have required that a physician be present at the time of prescribing and administering medication abortion drugs (AP/The Republic, 4/26).

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's telemedicine system allows Des Moines-based physicians to conduct video consultations with patients in rural clinics who are seeking abortion services and are no more than nine weeks pregnant. If a physician decides that a patient is an appropriate candidate for a medication abortion, he or she can use a computer command to remotely open a drawer in front of the patient. The patient removes the medication from the drawer and takes the first dose while the physician watches. The remaining medication is taken at home -- the same practice that is used when the first dose is taken with a physician physically present (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14).

Sen. Burke Harr, who abstained on both bills, said he wants to avoid a repeat of last year, when the state and the Legislature were "embarrassed" by legal challenges to a law that required extensive screenings of women seeking abortion care. A federal judge blocked that law's implementation because of doubts about its constitutionality, and Nebraska's attorney general agreed to a permanent injunction (Omaha World-Herald, 4/26).

Okla. Senate Approves Restrictions on Medication Abortion Drugs

The Oklahoma Senate on Monday voted 39-6 to approve a bill (HB 1970) that would require physicians who offer medication abortion to conduct examinations of patients, document certain medical conditions and schedule follow-up appointments before administering the drugs, the AP/Tulsa World reports (AP/Tulsa World, 4/26). The bill would also mandate that physicians follow FDA guidelines on medication abortion, rather than guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Abortion Federation that are currently used.

Kate Neary-Pounds, director of Tulsa Reproductive Services, said the bill would bar vaginal administration of the drugs and reduce the window in which the drugs can be prescribed from the current 8.4 weeks of gestation to seven weeks. "Barring women from having a medical abortion after seven weeks' gestation forces women to undergo a surgery procedure when they otherwise would have the option of a safe procedure using the medications alone," she said. "Our experience shows that making the [abortion] process more difficult doesn't change a woman's mind, it just creates more of a burden on the patient and the provider," Neary-Pounds continued, adding, "This is obviously the intent of the legislation" (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 4/27).