Doctors will be banned in Louisiana from remotely administering the abortion pill via a video hookup, a procedure criticized as “telemedicine abortion.”
The Senate gave final passage Thursday to Senate Bill 90 with a 36-2 vote. The measure by state Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville, heads next to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who supports it.
The ban will take effect upon signature of the governor.
Supporters included anti-abortion groups and activists. They said a doctor should be present in the room to administer the medication as a safety precaution and as a protection for women’s health, rather than authorizing its use from a computer screen.
Planned Parenthood opposed SB90 as medically unnecessary, saying it’s designed to make it harder for women to get abortions. Remote administration of the abortion pill has been tried in states to give access to women in rural areas where there aren’t abortion clinics.
Initially known as RU-486, the abortion pill was approved for use in the United States in 2000 as an alternative to a surgical abortion. The pill is marketed as Mifeprex and works during the first nine weeks of pregnancy.
Mifeprex causes an embryo to detach from the uterine wall, and a second pill taken two days later causes contractions and pushes the embryo out of the uterus.
The legislation will require a doctor who prescribes the abortion pill to be in the same room and “in the physical presence of the pregnant woman when the drug or chemical is initially administered.”
Mills’ measure also adds new regulations for doctors who perform abortions, requiring them to have training in obstetrics and gynecology or family medicine. It also will increase the fines available to the state health department for sanctioning abortion clinics for violations of regulations.
Supporters said nine other states have passed similar restrictions, and Mills said FDA guidelines for the abortion pill recommend having a physician in attendance.
Louisiana is one of the nation’s most anti-abortion states, enacting a series of restrictions over the years. Some have been overturned in courts. Lawmakers also have placed language in the law to explain the state only allows abortion procedures because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they are legal.