Republicans in Mississippi are already working hard to shut down the last abortion clinic in the state, imposing unnecessary, complicated regulations that may drive the clinic out of business and leave women with few options for surgical abortions. But that’s not enough for Mississippi’s anti-abortion lawmakers. Now, a GOP-sponsored bill also seeks to limit women’s access to medication-induced abortions as well.
The state’s Senate Health committee has approved a bill that would impose additional hurdles for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy with the abortion-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. The new measure would force women to make additional trips to the doctor’s office, as well as impose an outdated method of prescribing abortion-inducing medications that women’s health advocates warn will simply obstruct abortion access:
“The FDA protocol for medical abortion is an outdated procedure and it’s not commonly used,” said Felicia Brown-Williams, who lobbies for Planned Parenthood in Mississippi.
The measure would also require a woman to return to a doctor’s office to take a dose of misoprostol, instead of taking it at home, as is often now the practice. That would mean a total of four visits — one before prescription, one for the first course of mifepristone, one for the misoprostol, and then a follow-up visit 14 days later. [...]
“The reasons for these bills are to do everything possible to restrict abortion services,” Brown-Williams said. Her organization prescribes the drugs in other states, but not in Mississippi.
Only a doctor could prescribe the drugs under the proposed law, and the physician would have to report every prescription to the state Department of Health. Physicians would also have to report every “adverse event” to the FDA and the state Board of Medical Licensure. Any doctor who violates the law could face lawsuits, lose their licenses and be convicted of a misdemeanor.
Mississippi’s proposed bill is similar to legislation in Ohio that began restricting access to medication abortions in 2011. Because the outdated requirements require doctors to unnecessarily increase the dosage of mifepristone for their patients, Ohio’s law actually started raising the cost of the abortion pill for the women who need it — which could soon be the situation in Mississippi as well.
Making medication abortion services widely available helps lower the rate of later term abortions, since it gives women the opportunity to get the reproductive care they need as soon as possible. Of course, surgical abortions are an extremely safe medical procedure — but many women prefer the additional privacy that medicine-induced abortions allow them as they terminate a pregnancy, since they can take the RU-486 pill at home.
But the women in Mississippi may soon have very few places to turn for their abortion care. If GOP lawmakers successfully shutter the last remaining abortion clinic, there won’t be anywhere in the state to obtain a surgical abortion. And as politicians slowly chip away at access to medication abortions, women seeking reproductive health services — particularly the economically disadvantaged women who struggle to make multiple trips to the clinic, and may not be able to afford increasingly expensive RU-486 pills — may not have any safe abortion options left.