March 3, 2015 — The Idaho House on Monday voted 55-14 to pass a bill (HB 154) that would bar physicians from using telemedicine in medication abortion care by requiring them to be physically present while administering the drugs, the AP/Idaho Statesman reports. The bill now heads to the state Senate.
None of the state's three clinics that offer abortion services use telemedicine for medication abortions (Kruesi, AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/2).
The antiabortion-rights group Idaho Chooses Life proposed the legislation. Under the bill, providers would have to conduct a physical exam before administering medication abortion drugs, be capable of providing surgical intervention and attempt to schedule a follow-up appointment, among other requirements.
Further, the measure would allow a patient, her spouse or, if the patient is deceased, her parents to seek damages against the provider for alleged violations of the legislation. In addition, county prosecutors could call for an injunction against the provider.
Idaho lawmakers revised the legislation at the request of a state physicians group. Specifically, the revisions eliminated language that would have required medication abortion providers to make "all" efforts necessary to ensure follow-up care and added a stipulation that providers make "reasonable efforts" to schedule such appointments. In addition, the revised measure clarified that follow-up visits can occur with a different provider at the same practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/24).
Supporters said the legislation would protect women's health and claimed that medication abortions can cause women to experience complications that require surgery (AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/2).
However, state Rep. Ilana Rubel (D) noted the measure "was not driven by the medical community" and was actually "brought by anti-abortion activists." Data on medication abortion show that the procedure is safe, she added (Brown, Twin Falls Times-News, 3/3).
Some supporters suggested that the measure would reduce the number of abortions, according to the AP/Statesman. "I think [the bill] may cause some women to ponder a little longer before having an abortion," state Rep. Linden Bateman (R) said (AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/2).
Rubel said the bill would not cause the number of abortions to decrease and instead could make abortion more costly and less accessible for low-income and rural women, which in turn could delay them from obtaining abortions until later in pregnancy.
In addition, state Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D) said legislators should not impose limitations on how physicians can perform a procedure. "It would be a mistake to ban [telemedicine abortion] preemptively, especially as practices of medicine change," Wintrow said (Twin Falls Times-News, 3/3).