ATLANTA — Telemedicine has become a widely used service during the pandemic, but Georgia lawmakers want to return to requiring a woman to be in person for abortion services.
Georgia’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 7 to 5 on Wednesday to approve the “Women’s Health and Safety Act,” which would prevent the sending of abortion pills after a telemedicine visit.
Early last year, the FDA changed the requirements for getting the pill in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The amendment removed the requirement that the pill could only be distributed at certain health facilities and allowed the pill to be distributed by certified medical institutions by mail.
Senate-proposed Bill 456 states that qualified physicians providing abortion-inducing medication must examine the woman in person and perform an ultrasound and other “checklists,” including verification of pregnancy and pregnancy. woman’s blood group.
The attending physician must also inform the patient that she “may see the remains of her unborn child in the process of abortion,” the bill says.
A follow-up visit should also be scheduled within 7-14 days of taking the pill to confirm termination of pregnancy and perform any further assessments. The abortion pill, Mifeprex, can be taken up to 10 weeks into your pregnancy.
“Drugs were never intended to be provided without the direct involvement and ongoing oversight of a healthcare worker,” said Republican Senator Bruce Thompson, sponsor of the bill. “Providing these drugs through the mail without the woman being properly examined causes her to suffer unnecessary harm.”
Thompson argued that in-person visits allow doctors to verify pregnancy, diagnose ectopic pregnancies, and provide surgery for incomplete abortions or severe bleeding. He added that mailing the pills does not provide a chain of custody to ensure they are delivered to the intended recipient.
About 20 states, including Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, require the prescribing physician to be in the patient’s physical presence when administering the pill, thus prohibiting telemedicine abortion.
At Wednesday’s hearing on the Georgia bill, reactions from female health professionals appeared to be mixed.
Some have argued that mailing the abortion pill poses no risk to patients and that the bill goes too far in the medical field, and others have called mailing abortion pills without an assessment physics of “reckless”.
Opponents say the bill would restrict access to health care for women, especially low-income women who may face barriers to going to a clinic.
“SB 456 is written by politicians – not doctors – and is intended to shame people and block access to safe and legal medical options,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood. Southeast in a statement. “This is nothing more than a performative bill in the middle of an election year. Abortion has already been decided in the state of Georgia. There is no reason for our leaders to lose a precious time and taxpayers’ money moving this bill forward.”
According to the CDC, more than 42% of all abortions in 2019 were early medical abortions (performed at 9 weeks or less).
Abortion access as a whole has been targeted in several states, attempting to reduce the number of weeks during pregnancy a woman can legally have an abortion.
Texas caused an outcry last year when it banned abortions for the past six weeks and the decision was effectively upheld by the Supreme Court. Tennessee’s 2020 six-week abortion ban and Georgia’s 2019 six-week abortion ban are currently pending while being challenged in federal court; Alabama lawmakers are considering a six-week abortion ban this session as its pending 2019 law to completely ban abortions in the state is stalled in court. Currently, abortions are allowed up to 20 weeks in Tennessee and Georgia, and up to 22 weeks in Alabama.
Opponents of abortion access argue that at six weeks a fetal heartbeat is usually detected, but many medical professionals have argued that the detection is electrical activity of cells and not a heartbeat. Proponents of abortion access argue that the six-week ban puts more women at risk since most women are unaware they are pregnant at six weeks.
A pending lawsuit in Mississippi seeking to overturn the state’s 15-week abortion ban (passed in 2018) has been thwarted by the state’s request to overturn Roe v. Wade – a 1973 Supreme Court ruling protecting a woman’s decision to have an abortion. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case is expected in June.