Idaho Senate Approves Telemedicine Abortion Ban

March 25, 2015 — The Idaho Senate on Monday approved a bill (HB 154) that would require physicians to be physically present when administering medication abortion drugs, the AP/KTVB reports (AP/KTVB, 3/23).

The state House previously approved the bill. However, the state Senate changed language in the bill during its vote on Monday. As a result, the bill now heads back to the state House for another vote (Prentice, "City Desk," Boise Weekly, 3/23).

None of the state's three clinics that offer abortion services use telemedicine for medication abortions.

Bill Details

Under the bill, providers would have to conduct a physical exam before administering medication abortion drugs, be capable of providing surgical intervention and make "reasonable efforts" to schedule a follow-up appointment, among other requirements. The bill permits patients to conduct follow-up visits with a different provider at the same location.

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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/18).

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review's "Eye on Boise," the bill was revised during the Senate debate at the request of the Idaho Medical Association to correct language that would have "effectively outlawed treatment" for ectopic pregnancies (Russell, "Eye on Boise," Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/23).

Vote Details

The state Senate voted 27-7 along party lines to approve the bill, with Republicans voting in support of the measure and Democrats voting against it ("City Desk," Boise Weekly, 3/23).

During debate, state Sen. Dan Schmidt (D), a physician, urged lawmakers to "[b]e careful" about approving the bill. He added, "Do you ... want to be doctors? That's what we're doing here. We're putting rules in statutes to define medical practice."

State Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb (D) also criticized the bill. "Women deserve equal access to legal and safe abortion regardless of where they live," she said. She added that medication abortion "is extremely safe" and warned that "[l]imiting access to this option would force those women to unnecessarily undergo a more invasive procedure."

Separately, state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R), who supported the bill, said, "We want to be pre-emptive and protect women from" abortions administered via telemedicine "by requiring a doctor to be present" ("Eye on Boise," Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/23).