Bill bars future rule waivers for abortion clinics

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The debate targeting the abortion pill and its availability in Indiana took an interesting turn Wednesday by targeting the doctors who prescribe it.

It hardly seemed possible, but Indiana lawmakers made the abortion bill more - and less - controversial Tuesday.

State Representative Terri Austin from Anderson, a Democrat, questioned why SB 489 was amended into SB 371.

"We are specifying in statute that the identity of doctors performing these procedures are now going to be posted on an internet website. I am going to tell you after the horrific incident that has occurred with some physicians where unfortunately they lost their life, I am questioning whether that is a prudent thing to do on our part," said Austin.

While the names may already be available on the internet, it is not currently required in state statute. Rep. Austin's fear is not without merit. Targeted violence against those who work in abortion clinics is not unprecedented.

The committee did, however, eliminate a provision requiring clinics offering the abortion pill to perform ultrasounds on women seeking the drug. But the stipulation forcing clinics that provide only drug-induced abortions meet the same facility requirements as clinics that do perform surgical abortions remains.

The bill was also amended to include informed consent provisions, change the date by which facilities must have licensing and prohibits the State Department of Health from grandfathering facilities that were not given that status in previous laws.

Planned Parenthood says that could force them to close a clinic in Lafayette. Liz Carroll is Vice President of Planned Parenthood of Indiana.

"Regulating us for surgical services when we do not provide them will put us in position to do very expensive remodeling of our existing facility for no patient safety purpose," said Carroll.

Mike Fichter the President of Indiana Right to Life had a different perspective.

"The issue is much broader than the Planned Parenthood facility in Lafayette. The fact is the door remains wide open under Indiana law for any abortion business to come into Indiana and conduct abortion business without any of the slightest state oversight," said Fichter.

When it came time for a vote, Rep. Austin once again let her feelings be known about the amended bill.

"That section six for me, putting doctors' names and phone numbers out there on the internet to have, is enough to cause me to vote no on this bill and I am going to vote no," Austin said.

The bill, which already passed the state Senate, passed out of committee in the House 8-5. It is now headed to the full House for amendments.

Chemical abortions

There is a feeling out there that Indiana's abortion laws were written before the onset of chemical abortions and therefore need to be updated. But opponents say the Republican super majority maybe going to far.

It is very clear that the business of abortion is changing in Indiana and around the country. In 2004, 4% of abortions performed in Indiana were chemically induced. In 2011 that number escalated to 18%.

Fichter testified in committee that, "SB 371 brings Indiana law into line with the reality of where the abortion business is going."

"The state of Indiana requires that any facility that performs surgical abortions be a licensed abortion clinic. The purpose of this is to protect patients and ensure that the care that they receive is safe. The reported complicate rate for surgical abortions is 1.9 per 1,000 procedures. The complication rate for medical abortions is approximately 2. 5 per 1,000 abortions. With a higher complication rate associated with medical abortions, it is my firm belief that any facility distributing mifepristone for the purpose of inducing an abortion should be required to be a licensed abortion clinic and therefore have appropriate oversight and be required to report any adverse outcomes," said Dr. Kristina Francis, who supports Bill 371.

The bill concerned Kristin Hollister so much that she appeared to testify. She is a senior Ph.D. candidate at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

"What this bill is really about is marginalizing poor women who do not have access to private physician. Who have not established a relationship that we keep talking about because if you have a relationship with your physician does that mean you will not have a complication from an abortion? That is ridiculous," she argued.

Many of those testifying against the bill said limited access could actually drive women to try and buy abortion pills on the internet. That is illegal in the United States but readily available internationally.

Reba Boyd Wooden is with the Center for Inquiry of Indiana.

"It is not about protecting women. By making legal and safe abortion less accessible it is endangering the health of women. The real purpose is targeted at Planned Parenthood which is apparent when it does not stipulate that private physicians have to conform to the same restrictions that clinics do," said Wooden.

That point prompted this interesting exchange between Eric Miller, the president of conservative-based Advance America and fellow conservative State Representative Sean Eberhart. The Shelbyville Republican asked Miller, "If you have a family physician who dispenses the drug why should they not fall under the same requirements of the laws of our state fairly?"

"Again, Rep. Eberhardt, I believe the bill is proper public policy for the state of Indiana. I believe it is proper to require all abortion clinics that provide surgical and chemical abortions to meet the same requirements," said Miller.

See a chart showing abortion laws by state.