March 30, 2013 5:19:30 PM
JACKSON -- Mississippi lawmakers are likely to approve a bill requiring a doctor to personally oversee the administration of abortion-inducing drugs and requiring the woman to return for a follow-up exam two weeks later.
The House voted 84-30 Friday to approve a House-Senate compromise on Senate Bill 2795. If the Senate approves, it would go to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.
The bill would bar physicians from prescribing the drugs remotely after consulting a patient by teleconference. Abortion foes have said they knew of no such telemedicine abortions being conducted in Mississippi, but wanted to guard against the practice.
The effort to more closely regulate the drugs mirrors efforts by anti-abortion forces in a number of states. Most significantly, in Ohio, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has approved most of that state's law that contains similar restrictions.
The compromise broadened the bill from including just the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. Instead it covers all chemically induced abortions.
It also changed earlier language that would have required another visit to take misoprostol, which induces contractions after mifepristone aborts a fetus. The bill also didn't narrow the window for prescriptions to the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
Now, the limit is typically nine weeks. The bill originally said physicians could only prescribe the drugs according to FDA directions. Under the current proposal doctors can still give off-label instructions if they meet the generally accepted "standard of care."
Only a physician could prescribe the drugs under the proposal, cutting the ability of nurse practitioners to prescribe. The physician would have to report every prescription to the state Department of Health and report every "adverse event" to the FDA.
Some anti-abortion House members were displeased with the compromise. Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, said Friday she wanted women to have to visit a doctor in person to take misoprostol to guard against excessive bleeding.
"This bill doesn't correct that at all," she said.
Mississippi State Right to Life President Barbara Whitehead called the compromise a "good bill" in a newsletter earlier this month. Another anti-abortion activist, Terri Herring of Madison, has said the changes leave the bill too watered down.
Mississippi State Medical Association President Dr. Steve Demetropolous of Pascagoula said the new language his association helped work out was an improvement.
"The original bill filed was misleading, misinformed, unclear, and overly intrusive into the physician-patient relationship," Demetropoulos said in a statement. "However, MSMA supports the intent of protecting patients; therefore, we worked closely with Senate and House public health members to revise and strengthen the bill to accomplish its goals without causing unintended consequences for good doctors practicing good medicine."
The bill still makes it a misdemeanor to "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" violate the act. Doctors had been strongly against criminalizing such behavior.
"Of course, physicians prefer that the practice of medicine remain in the hands of trained and educated doctors instead of government," Demetropoulos said.
The GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law last year that requires anyone doing abortions to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to the hospital. The state's lone abortion clinic said last month it had received notice that the state health department intends to revoke its operating license, though it is not expected to close anytime soon.
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