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Five States Working To Limit Women’s Access To The Abortion Pill

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"Five States Working To Limit Women’s Access To The Abortion Pill"

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On Monday, illegal abortion provider Kermit Gosnell was convicted of first-degree murder for the barbaric crimes he committed in his unsanitary Philadelphia-area clinic. Throughout his high-profile murder trial, anti-choice activists claimed that Gosnell’s case proved that abortion is always an inherently dangerous procedure — attempting to conflate incredibly late-term abortion services with first-trimester medication abortions. Even though their claims often fly in the face of scientific fact, abortion opponents have been largely successful at obscuring the medical realities of different types of abortion procedures.

That’s partly why restrictions on the abortion pill, which is medically known as mifepristone, are advancing across the country. Despite the fact that mifepristone is perfectly safe for women to take outside of the doctor’s office — an option that many women prefer, since it allows them the added privacy of taking the medication in their own home — anti-choice Republicans claim that more restrictions are necessary to protect women’s health. But these kind of restrictive state laws actually drive up the cost of the abortion pill, and don’t do anything to improve reproductive health care.

Here are five states where anti-abortion lawmakers are advancing medically unnecessary restrictions on the abortion pill, ultimately inserting themselves between a woman and her doctor:

1. MISSOURI: On Monday, Missouri lawmakers gave final legislative approval to HB 400, a measure that requires doctors to be physically present to administer the first dose of mifepristone and schedule an in-person follow-up appointment two weeks later. Critics of the legislation say it will interfere with women’s relationships with their doctors, as well as impose a serious burden on the women who must travel from different parts of the state to terminate a pregnancy. According to Paula Gianino, the CEO of Planned Parenthood for the St. Louis region and southwest Missouri, about 1 in 5 patients seeking an abortion at her clinic travel at least 100 miles.

2. NORTH CAROLINA: Anti-choice Republicans in North Carolina are currently pushing a package of anti-abortion bills intended to limit reproductive rights from several different angles. The most far-reaching measure is SB 308, which would require the clinics that administer medication abortions to adhere to the same standards as surgical facilities, including making costly updates to the building and requiring physicians to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals. That’s a common method of attacking abortion clinics, and it often forces them to either stop providing the abortion pill or shut down altogether.

3. INDIANA: Earlier this month, Indiana lawmakers successfully pushed through SEA 371, a measure that is solely intended to prevent a Planned Parenthood clinic in the state from providing the abortion pill to its patients. Just like North Carolina’s proposed bill, the new law in Indiana requires clinic that administer medication abortions to make costly and unnecessary updates to their facilities under the guide of “protecting women’s safety.” When Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the bill into law at the beginning of May, he repeated the popular anti-choice myth that the abortion pill is “dangerous” — despite all scientific evidence to the contrary.

4. MISSISSIPPI: At the end of April, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) approved SB 2795, which will require women to take the abortion pill in the presence of a physician as well as come in for a follow-up physical examination two weeks later. The measure takes effect on July 1 of this year — and it could represent a significant burden for women in the state. There’s only one abortion clinic left in all of Mississippi, and it’s fighting to remain open as anti-choice Republicans keep trying to shut it down.

5. LOUISIANA: Last month, the Louisiana Senate approved SB 90, a measure that would require a doctor who has completed a residency in obstetrics or gynecology to be physically present when administering medication abortions. If the bill becomes law, doctors who violate the new rule could be fined $1,000, imprisoned for two years, or both.

Requiring doctors to be physically present to administer the pill, even though most clinics don’t currently use that protocol, is a thinly-veiled attempt to ban abortion procedures conducted with the help of internet technology. Allowing doctors to prescribe mifepristone over a video conference helps improve low-income and rural women’s access to abortion services, since they may not be able to make a long trip to the nearest abortion clinic. Studies have shown that this type of abortion procedure is safe and effective. Nonetheless, anti-choice lawmakers continue to launch attacks at so-called “webcam abortions.”

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