While most Michigan residents were sleeping Thursday morning, the state’s lame-duck GOP legislature passed a measure that would ban doctors from prescribing the abortion-inducing pill via internet webcam.
The House voted 62-47 to renew the 2012 “telemedicine ban” that was due to expire at the end of this year. The bill now moves to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who is expected to sign it, weeks before he is replaced by the state’s incoming new Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
The middle-of-the-night vote is one of several steps the Republican-controlled state House has taken recently to roll back progressive policies or implement conservative measures before Michigan’s new Democratic governor, attorney general, and secretary of state take office. Last week, the legislature passed amendments to do away with the state’s minimum wage increase and paid sick leave, triggering angry protests at the state capitol.
Under the “telemedicine” bill, people seeking an abortion would be required to physically go to the doctor’s office to acquire a prescription for the abortion-inducing pill. While supporters of the legislation argue that the prohibition is a safety precaution, the medication — a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol — is verified by the World Health Organization and, as research has shown, is a safe and effective option for terminating pregnancy up to 11 weeks.
“Safety” is a red herring: These types of bans are intended to limit abortions for political reasons. By banning the practice of prescribing the pill online, the measure makes it difficult for those living miles away from the nearest clinic to obtain an abortion.
“In this case, absent the ability to prescribe remotely, a woman would have to travel to a clinic, hospital, or office to take the medication,” Betty Chu, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, said in a statement, according to the Detroit News. “The unfortunate reality is this isn’t feasible in many remote areas of the state, hence the impetus for and expansion of telemedicine.”
As ThinkProgress previously reported, self-induced abortion is currently banned in seven states. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 19 states require doctors prescribing abortion medication to be physically present when doing so.