Bill to Ban Telemed Abortions Advances in Missouri House
A Missouri House of Representatives committee has advanced legislation which would prohibit the practice of telemedicine abortions in the state of Missouri. The House Children and Families Committee endorsed the legislation, described as the "Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act," by a 7-3 vote.
The proposal, sponsored by Representative Andrew Koenig of St. Louis County, would foreclose a scheme implemented by Planned Parenthood in the state of Iowa for the dispensing of the abortion drug RU-486. Under that scheme, an abortionist in Des Moines "confers" with a patient over the Internet through a web-based teleconference, and then remotely releases a drawer containing the abortion drug at a distant location where the woman is situated. The physician never sees or examines the patient in person. It is estimated that more than 2000 women have had abortions in Iowa through this method so far.
Sixteen Iowa abortion clinics have now been connected to the RU-486 telemedicine network and Planned Parenthood has expressed intentions to expand the telemedicine concept to all its clinics across the country. The practice appears to conflict with Food and Drug Administration guidelines for dispensing RU-486. Those requirements state that the physician administering the drug must have "the ability to assess the duration of the pregnancy...ability to diagnose ectopic pregnancies...ability to provide surgical intervention in cases of incomplete abortion or severe bleeding."
Congressman Steve King of Iowa has sharply criticized the use of the telemedicine approach for medication abortions. "RU-486 is a dangerous drugs that has been associated with at least 11 deaths and thousands of cases of excessive bleeding and infection. Evading FDA guidelines by dispending RU-486 through telemedicine has the potential to increase complications and fatalities associated with its use."
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman says the practice places pregnant women at risk. "Planned Parenthood's telemed/webcam abortion scheme strips away any semblance of a doctor-patient relationship. After the abortionist electronically pops open a drawer to dispense the abortion drugs, the abortionist never sees the patient again, even if there are complications."
"Telemed abortions are Planned Parenthood's solution to a shortage of abortionists," Newman adds. "It helps them access customers in otherwise abortion-free population centers in order to increase revenue while disregarding the health and safety of women."
The RU-486 regimen involves the use of two drugs taken on the first and third days: Mifeprex (or mifeprestone) which causes the uterine lining to deteriorate and the embryo to detach from the uterine wall; and misoprostol, which causes contractions resulting in the embryo being expelled from the uterus. Women are subjected to the gory experience of witnessing the expulsion of the embryo in their own homes. It is not surprising that a study conducted by researchers at Newscastle University in England found that many women who used RU-486 experienced "intrusive psychological symptoms," including nightmares of killing their unborn child.
Since RU-486 was authorized by the FDA in 2000, there have been numerous reports of complications. Most of the deaths were from sepsis, an infection of the blood stream. Over a thousand "adverse events" have been reported, including hundreds of hospitalizations, blood transfusions, and infections.
Dr. Randall O'Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Committee, says the "do-it-yourself" abortions place women at great medical risk. "RU-486 isn't a drug that simply makes women feel uncomfortable or gives them a headache. Besides severe pain and gut-wrenching side effects, this drug triggers severe bleeding and hemorrhage in hundreds of women, many requiring transfusions. Studies show that blood loss from a chemically-induced abortion is actually four times what is expected from a surgical abortion, even when things go as planned."
More and more abortions are being induced through medication, as opposed to the more conventional surgical procedures. Danco Laboratories, the manufacturers of RU-486, estimate that approximately 15% of all abortions performed or induced in the United States now occur through the administration of RU-486. That number rises to nearly 25% when considering just the first nine weeks of pregnancy. Over 1.4 million women are reported to have used the abortion pill since the FDA authorized its use.
In Missouri, Planned Parenthod clinics in Columbia and Kansas City provide only medication abortions involving RU-486. The Reproductive Health Services clinic in St. Louis operated by Planned Parenthood offers both surgical and medication abortions.
Representative Koenig's bill was developed by Campaign Life Missouri and Missouri Family Network. It states that RU-486 cannot be prescribed unless the physician physically examines the patient and further verifies that the woman does not have an ectopic pregnancy. The drug could only be administered in a hospital or a licensed ambulatory surgical center, and the physician must have surgical privilegs at a hospital within thirty miles of the location at which the abortion is induced.
The bill also stipulates that the physician must obtain additional malpractice insurance coverage "due to malformations or other birth defects which can occur in a child who survives an attempted abortion and is born alive after the administration of RU-486."
Representative Koenig's bill was amended to another pro-life bill sponsored by Representative David Sater, which also won approval from the House Children and Families Committee. Sater's bill would protect the right of pharmacies not to dispense or stock RU-486 or any other abortifacient drug including the Plan B drug marketed as "emergency contraception."
The substitute bill was supported by Representatives Kurt Bahr, Mike McGhee, Jay Barnes, Cloria Brown, Rick Brattin, Committee Chairman Scott Largent, and Representative Koenig himself. The pro-life bill was opposed by Representatives Jeanette Mott Oxford, Stacey Newman, and Churie Spreng.
We are grateful for pro-life leaders in the Legislature like Representative Koenig and Representative Sater. Please be praying for them that their courageous efforts will be supported by the their colleagues as the full House of Representatives debates this measure.