April 20, 2012 — The Minnesota Legislature on Wednesday approved two bills that would place new restrictions on medication abortion and abortion clinics, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Neither measure is expected to receive approval from Gov. Mark Dayton (D), an abortion-rights supporter.
House lawmakers voted 80-48 to approve a bill (SF 2128) that would require doctors to be physically present when administering medication abortion drugs.
The bill targets a telemedicine program that Planned Parenthood launched last year to provide women in rural parts of Minnesota with greater access to medication abortion (Boldt, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/18). Jennifer Aulwes, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said the enactment of the legislation likely would mean the end of the program (AP/NECN, 4/18).
The bill's supporters said it is aimed at ensuring women's safety. Opponents countered that the mortality rate from medication abortion is roughly one death per 100,000 women, which they noted is much lower than the five deaths for every 100,000 men who take Viagra. An amendment that would have required medical supervision of men using Viagra failed 95-28 (Brooks, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4/18).
A Senate measure (SF 1921) approved by a 43-23 vote would require clinics that perform at least 10 abortions monthly to pay an annual licensing fee of $3,712. The clinics also would be subject to random inspections by the state health commissioner up to two times per year.
Jim Koppel, Minnesota's deputy commissioner of health, noted that the Department of Health requires licenses for doctors and nurses but does not require a license for medical clinics. He said it is "unfair" to single out abortion clinics when "[t]here are many clinics where similar procedures take place all the time" (AP/NECN, 4/18).