February 28, 2013 — A bill (SB 97) pending in the Texas Senate would require physicians to personally administer the two drugs involved in medication abortion, which must be taken 24 hours apart, and follow up within two weeks, the Texas Tribune reports.
The measure also would require written contracts for physicians who have made arrangements with back-up physicians to provide emergency care. Although many physicians have verbal agreements, the written requirement would allow the state to track which physicians with hospital admitting privileges are willing to provide emergency care for abortion patients, according to the Tribune.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on the bill Tuesday and left it pending for further action.
State Sen. Dan Patrick (R), the bill's sponsor, said, "All we're asking is that the abortion clinics follow the [FDA's] guidelines and the manufacturers' guidelines."
Opponents argued that 13-year-old FDA guidelines are outdated and inconsistent with how medication abortion is administered today. Al Gros, an ob-gyn who testified on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said, "Common practice has advanced beyond [FDA] protocol," noting that physicians use only one-third of the FDA-recommended dosage and that the modern regimen has a 98% success rate.
Abortion-rights advocates have argued that the written contract requirement is intended to discourage physicians who have hospital admitting privileges from partnering with abortion providers. The requirement could be problematic, "given the history of harassment and violence that [abortion-providing] physicians have suffered in this country," according to NARAL Pro-Choice Texas spokesperson Blake Rocap.
The Texas Medical Association also has expressed concern that the legislation would interfere with the physician-patient relationship. TMA President Michael Speer said, "Regardless of how reasonable legislation requiring certain medical acts may appear, it is a slippery slope that will open the door for future legislation to further direct the practice of medicine" (Aaronson,Texas Tribune, 2/26).