The House Public Health Committee gave voice vote approval to a bill by Rep. Charlene Fite
to tighten rules on use of abortion-inducing drugs.
It's cookie-cutter anti-abortion legislation, similar to laws under challenge in court elsewhere, that requires that the abortion-inducing drugs be administered only at FDA-approved dosages, along with other protocols that are not customarily followed. The bill seeks, for example, to require an office visit for a second round of pills taken as part of the protocol.
Dr. Janet Cathey, an ob/gyn, testified that off-label dosages of the drug were safer than the FDA protocol. Fite said the bill was about making abortion safer. She said deaths and illnesses had occurred among women using the drug.
Similar laws have been challenged in other states as effectively unconstitutional bars to abortion. Decisions have been split among U.S. circuits, as this article explained when the U.S. Supreme Court in December left in plac
e a ruling temporarily barring such a law in Arizona.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland
, which provides chemical abortions in Arkansas, said it was reviewing the legislation for potential impact on its operation and the potential for legal action if it becomes law.
UPDATE: But, on a roll call vote of 9-3, the Committee did not approve a bill by Rep. Mary Bentley to have a doctor with admitting privileges to a nearby hospital (within 30 miles) present when an abortion, including giving of a drug, is performed. She said she'd try again.
It, too, parrots laws filed in other states and under court challenge.
The committee also approved a minor amendment to the bill already passed by both houses to prevent doctors from overseeing women taking an abortion-inducing drug by TV.
UPDATE: I talked to Planned Parenthood about the legislation.
Angie Remington said the Arkansas bill, though not identical to those in Texas and Arizona, "is just as dangerous in its assertion that ignoring more than a decade of evidence-based medicine is safe for Arkansas women. And, unlike the other bills that restrict the use of best medical practices for this medication, this bill requires "back-up agreements," which mirror components of admitting privileges bills like the one that was rejected by Arkansas legislators just this morning, and which have been the subject of litigation in other states to the expense of the state and, ultimately, taxpayers in that state."
She provided this background:
The bill requires doctors to administer certain drugs only in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol. The use of mifepristone was initially approved by the FDA through only the first seven weeks of pregnancy; however, evidence-based best practices allow medical practitioners to use the drug up to nine weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period as a safe alternative to an in-clinic abortion procedure.
The FDA does not restrict evidence-based changes to the administration of a drug, as it often evolves. Mifepristone has been found to be effective in smaller doses and up to two weeks longer than the drug was originally approved. Additionally, medical groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)have spoken out in opposition of this type of legislation.
If enacted, this legislation means that a woman in Oklahoma who ends her pregnancy for any reason, including ectopic pregnancy, will be denied access to medication abortion two weeks earlier than evidence-based medical practices currently support.. Often, a woman does not even realize she is pregnant until she is past or nearly past this point in her pregnancy.