Georgia lawmakers and advocates debate Senate bill on abortion pills

On March 1, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 456, which would bar women from receiving the abortion pill in the mail and require in-person exams with a doctor. Senators approved the measure 31-22, voting along party lines, to move the bill through the House.

SB 456, also known as the “Women’s Health and Safety Act,” was introduced Feb. 3 by Republican Senator Bruce Thompson. The legislation was a response to a decision by the United States Food and Drug Administration to waive the requirement that abortion pills be picked up in person.

The FDA originally issued the waiver as a precaution against COVID-19 to limit travel to medical offices. But then the FDA made the decision permanent in December, removing a major barrier to access to abortion pills.

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One of the goals of the bill is to ensure that procedures reflect pre-pandemic requirements. According to a statement made at the Georgia Senate panel in February, the bill “is intended to protect these women from the reckless actions of those who send these drugs to women without ensuring that she receives the care necessary and required to ensure that his health and safety are not compromised”. .”

Medical abortion care was first approved by the FDA in 2000 and involves the use of two drugs to end a pregnancy – mifepristone and misoprostol. The bill would prevent women from receiving these drugs in the mail, which are used together to terminate a pregnancy for up to 10 weeks.

The drugs are not the same as the so-called “morning after pill”, which prevents pregnancy by delaying or preventing ovulation.

Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), co-sponsor of the bill and Savannah’s physician, said the bill would mean better health care for women.

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“I don’t see that as a restriction,” Watson said.

The bill states that before an abortion-inducing drug is provided, a qualified physician must perform an ultrasound and schedule a follow-up. While the first visit must be in person to be prescribed the pill, Watson said a virtual visit over a secure network is permitted for follow-up.

The bill also stipulates that the doctor must obtain a signed consent form from the patient and inform him that it may be possible to reverse the effects of the drug if the patient changes his mind.

Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) voted against the measure.

Similar laws are passed across the country

Georgian lawmakers aren’t alone in wanting to reinstate old FDA rules at the state level.

Legislators in Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Tennessee have also introduced bills banning the delivery of abortion pills through the mail.

Yessica Pawloski, clinical operations manager at Planned Parenthood Southeast, said the ban would reduce access for patients.

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“Essentially, it prevents people who have had a very difficult time getting medical care during this pandemic. So whether you’re a person of color, whether you’re someone who lives in a rural community, whether you’re poor, the only purpose is to restrict the ability to get health care,” she said. declared.

The package of abortion pills provided to customers via telehealth medicine by carafem.

For those with restrictions like the inability to take a day off, finding alternate childcare, or those without a car, Pawloski said telemedicine gives them more flexibility.

Savannah resident Nina Altschiller views the bill as an unnecessary burden.

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“It’s the control of our body when no control is needed,” Altschiller said.

The women's march took place on Bull Street in Savannah on Saturday, defending reproductive freedom after Texas passed a bill effectively banning abortions in the state.

“We don’t want a nanny state. We don’t want people watching everything. … Yet we are very willing to put our neighbor’s nose in other people’s business when it comes to making a decision about my body and whether or not I am able to carry a baby to term, whether I have been raped, if I had a horrible experience. Whatever the reason, the reason is mine and no one has the right to tell me what to do with my body.

Laura Nwogu is a quality of life reporter for Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected] Twitter: @lauranwogu_

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