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).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.