February 29, 2012 — The Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday voted to advance two measures that would place new restrictions on abortion clinics and providers, MPR News reports (Dunbar, MPR News, 2/27). Both bills now go to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
One bill (SF 1921), offered by Sen. Claire Robling (R), would require a new license and inspections for any "clinic, health center or other facility" that performs at least ten abortions monthly. A spokesperson for the state Department of Health testified that creating rules for licensing abortion clinics would be "groundbreaking" and costly. Lawmakers added an amendment that would charge facilities a fee for licensing and inspection.
A second measure (SF 2128), offered by Sen. Paul Gazelka (R), would require doctors to be physically present when administering medication abortion drugs (Ragsdale, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/27). The bill would make it a felony for physicians to use videoconferencing systems in administering the drugs.
Opponents of the bill said that the safety of medication abortion has been well established. Patients using videoconferencing systems receive ultrasounds to help providers assess the potential for complications, according to Jennifer Aulwes, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. Last year, the organization launched a program that allows physicians in its St. Paul clinic to provide remote medication abortion services to patients in rural parts of southern Minnesota. The physician consults with the patient via a videoconferencing system, then remotely opens a locked safe containing the drugs. A health care professional also is in the room with the patient (Snowbeck, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/27).