Republican lawmakers in Michigan’s Senate passed legislation to prohibit doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing drugs via online video chats with patients. The measure passed by a 12-vote margin, and extended an existing ban on abortion medications which would have expired in 2019.
Under the new law, women who desire abortion-inducing drugs must visit a physical clinic to obtain the medication. Pro-abortion lawmakers protested that Michigan women may lack access to such clinics, especially in rural areas of the state.
“Telemedicine works,” stated Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor). “The bill before us forces Michigan backwards, plain and simple. The motivation here is purely ideological, not medical, and quite frankly it’s unconstitutional.”
Genevieve Marnon, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, expressed a different view. The FDA limits access to abortion-inducing drugs to reduce harmful side effects, she noted: for example, FDA regulators prohibit women from obtaining mifepristone (a common abortion medication) at retail pharmacies. Thus, for pro-life advocates, Michigan’s new law simply respects the spirit of FDA policy.
Since 19 other states have enacted telemedicine abortion bans, Marnon deems Michigan’s bill a “pre-emptive” move amid widespread support for restrictions on abortion drugs. Roughly 9,000 abortions were performed via medication in Michigan last year, Marnon noted.
The Michigan House will consider the measure later this month.
Missouri officials have forced a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Kansas City to stop performing abortions, reports local NPR affiliate KCUR. The clinic attempted to renew its operating license before August 10, but state health officials could not conduct a complete inspection of the facility.
Emily Wales, Planned Parenthood’s general counsel, believes political motivations prompted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to shutter the clinic. “It’s hard for me to imagine how this isn’t for purposes of delay,” Wales stated.
A partial state inspection of the abortion clinic revealed that the facility failed to meet state guidelines regarding patient care. Planned Parenthood Great Plains spokeswoman Emily Miller protests that the clinic should be able to “go above and beyond” such guidelines. “That’s the best way to serve our patients,” Miller explained.
Missouri health officials, however, retain considerable control over abortion providers in the state. For example, medication abortion providers must contract with back-up ob-gyn doctors who enjoy admitting privileges at a hospital close to the abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to block that regulation, but a federal judge dismissed the suit. Planned Parenthood had failed to show that Missouri women faced “a substantial burden” because of the regulation, the judged ruled.
Planned Parenthood’s midtown facility hopes to resume abortion procedures soon, and has hired a new abortion physician. However, the new provider lacks admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, so thanks to Missouri law, the clinic may not be able to perform abortions even if it secures a new license.
9/12/18 Update: Missouri officials now plan to renew the clinic’s license, but will require the facility to comply with additional regulations.