November 26, 2012 — Texas Sen. Dan Patrick (R) recently filed a bill (SB 97) that would effectively prohibit the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortion remotely, the Texas Tribune reports.
A 2011 Texas law, which took effect in February, requires that a physician perform an ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure. The new bill would increase in-person requirements for physicians by mandating that they administer both of the two drugs used for medication abortions. Most clinics allow women to take misoprostol -- which is taken two days after mifepristone, the first drug in the pill regimen -- at home.
The bill also would require that physicians schedule a follow-up appointment to take place within 14 days, which would be difficult for some doctors who travel to remote areas of the state to provide abortion care, the Tribune notes. Another provision would require the physician providing the abortion to have a written contract with a back-up physician and provide the state with that doctor's name and phone number.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman's Health, which provides abortion care, said the group's clinics in Beaumont, McAllen and Fort Worth previously relied on telemedicine to provide medication abortion services. However, the ultrasound law has decreased the number of abortions at the clinics, particularly at the clinics that used telemedicine, which only have a physician on site two weekends a month. In addition, the law has resulted in women obtaining abortions later than they want.
"Through telemedicine we were able to serve women in communities, mainly more rural communities, where access to abortion was much more difficult," Hagstrom Miller said (Aaronson, Texas Tribune, 11/20).
Other Measures Proposed
In addition to the medication abortion bill, Texas antiabortion-rights groups are pushing other measures for the 2013 session, the Texas Tribune/New York Times reports.
Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, said she hopes Texas will become the 10th state to pass a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is when some abortion-rights opponents claim a fetus can feel pain. Texas law prohibits abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy unless the health or the life of the woman is at risk or there are fetal abnormalities.
Meanwhile, Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said his group's primary goal this session is to continue efforts to block Planned Parenthood and other clinics affiliated with abortion providers from participating in the state's Medicaid program (White/Aaronson, Texas Tribune/New York Times, 11/22).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership