Senators debate House abortion bill

Missouri law allows doctors and patients to communicate by video-conferencing “to improve the health status of a patient.”

But a bill the House passed April 17, with a 119-41 margin, would prohibit a “telehealth” connection for a woman receiving the drug RU-486 or another “abortion-inducing” drug.

The bill also “requires reasonable efforts to be made by a doctor, to make a follow-up visit with a person receiving those ... drugs,” Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, explained.

Barnes testified on behalf of Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, who was late getting back to the Capitol because of a flight delay following a weekend visit with her grandchildren, Barnes told the Senate’s Judiciary and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Monday afternoon.

Susan Klein, Missouri Right to Life director, said the proposal is a “woman’s health bill (that) ensures that a physician is in the room with the woman, whenever she begins the abortion procedure by taking RU-486.”

She said the bill “encourages” the doctor to follow the FDA protocol for other drugs used in the procedure.

“When the web-cam abortions began in Iowa, they went from five abortion clinics to 17,” Klein said. “This is a pro-active bill to keep that from happening here in the state of Missouri.”

She noted Planned Parenthood has “been expanding their network on these web-cam abortions,” including “Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. And Missouri is on their radar.”

But, she added, “Eight other states have passed similar legislation” to Riddle’s bill, “and it has not been challenged.

“We know it can withstand a constitutional challenge.”

Joann Schroeder, Fulton, told the committee that opponents’ “motivation is more about access to abortion than putting their (patients’) health and safety paramount.”

But Michelle Trupiano, spokeswoman for Missouri’s Planned Parenthood affiliates, reminded the committee: “When it comes to medication, abortion is a very extremely safe procedure — it has less than a .3 percent adverse effect.”

That’s one in 100,000 cases where a patient would experience an adverse effect, she said, compared with 150 deaths per year for Tylenol; “five deaths for every 100,000 (Viagra) prescriptions given;” and 13 pregnancy-related deaths for every 100,000 pregnancies.

Trupiano told the senators: “This isn’t about safety.

“This is because the proponents of this bill do not like access to abortion services.”

She said Planned Parenthood follows the existing FDA protocols, and said the proposed law shouldn’t spell out the procedure, in case it’s changed in the future.

While the law would require an in-person follow-up visit, Trupiano said, the current practice already suggests a follow-up visit about 12 days to 18 days after the abortion-inducing drug is given.

The current protocol also has the doctor prescribing a second medication to be taken at home, 24 hours to 48 hours after the first drug is given.

That “is the preferred regimen,” Trupiano said, “that has been shown that it is better for women to actually take that medicine at home, because that’s when the symptoms are going to start.”

Women who have some symptoms generally have some cramping similar to that experienced by women “during the monthly cycle,” she said, and can last from two to eight hours.

Trupiano again argued the bill “is about doing everything (supporters) can to limit access to a legal health care service.”

But Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said he thought the bill supporters “are protecting (all) life, not just the life of the mother.”

Riddle’s bill has the same language as a Senate version sponsored by Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, which the committee previously endorsed for debate.

So the panel voted 5-2 Monday, along party lines, to send the House bill to the full Senate for debate.

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