A Louisiana state bill that would ban telemedicine as means to prescribe the abortion pill to women living in rural or remote areas has been backed by the state's Senate Health and Welfare Committee and now heads to the Senate for a vote.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills (R-Beaux Bridge), was introduced April 8 and was reported with amendments this Wednesday. The Senate will vote on the bill Thursday afternoon.
Bill provisions would make it illegal for physicians to prescribe the abortion pill via telemedicine consultations and instead would require women to be present in the same room as the physician to receive a prescription.
[See also: Telemedicine for reproductive health.]
"We feel this bill is very appropriate for the health, welfare and safety of the pregnant lady," said Mills, the Associated Press reports.
Advocates of this telemedicine service, however, say it helps extend services to women living in rural or remote areas who would otherwise have to travel long distances to receive the prescription.
For instance, the subject of December study published in the American Journal of Public Health, a four-year-old Heartland, Iowa-based telemedicine program aimed at improving a woman's access to medical abortion services, has both reduced the number of surgical abortions throughout the state and expanded care to women living in more rural areas.
The telemedicine service "doesn't make more women get abortions, which makes sense," said Daniel Grossman, co-author of the study, in an interview with Healthcare IT News. "I don't think women have abortions because they're easy to access, but it does improve access so it helps women get in earlier."
A bill like Louisiana's SB 90 could have far reaching consequences for not only women's reproductive rights but also for the number of surgical abortions performed if medical abortions are more difficult to obtain for women, some officials say.
"This bill imposes medically unnecessary requirements on abortion providers with the intent of eliminating access to abortion for women in Louisiana and falsely claims that non-surgical abortion is unsafe," wrote Melissa Flournoy, Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, in a statement to Healthcare IT News.
However, as the Associated Press reports, Dorinda Bordlee, an anti-abortion attorney who testified in support of SB 90, disagrees. She said it's about ensuring safety, in case complications were to arise. "This is a dangerous situation for women," Bordlee told the AP.
This story has been updated.