Tennessee lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill to ban the distribution of abortion drugs through the mail and on college campuses, the latest in a series of similar laws across the United States prompted by federal approval of the delivery and telehealth distribution of pills.
The legislation, which was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, seeks to ban the courier delivery of abortion drugs, an increasingly common method of terminating teenage pregnancies up to 10 weeks old.
More than 75% of Tennessee abortions occurred during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in 2018, according to the most recent state data available. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has endorsed medical or chemical abortion as a safe procedure.
Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, first introduced the bill, which would require doctors to dispense the two drugs in person, preventing patients from receiving them through a trained nurse or filling out a prescription written by a doctor in a pharmacy.
The bill would also ban drugs in post-secondary schools, which the Tennessee code defines as institutions in the state university and community college system.
“In this state, we have the opportunity to put in place safety measures around chemical abortion that currently allows the use of telemedicine and courier delivery, as opposed to skilled examination and direct delivery. powerful drugs,” Smith said.
Opponents of the legislation say it’s a dishonest attempt to further restrict access to safe abortion procedures in Tennessee because abortive drugs are taken over a 48-hour period and the proposed law simply requires an in-person dispensation.
Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, voted against the legislation, calling it “arbitrary and unnecessary” when the bill does not require doctors to monitor women throughout the procedure. Akbari also criticized the post-secondary school component, saying there was “no justification” for placing additional restrictions on college students who are legal adults.
“The doctor is not going to monitor the woman while she takes the medicine, she doesn’t even need to start taking the medicine in the office,” Akbari said.
“You have women and families making a very difficult decision, and all of this only makes that decision more difficult. I think women deserve the same freedom as men when it comes to accessing safe and legal drugs,” Akbari said. said, calling for greater emphasis on comprehensive sex education and expanded health coverage to deal with unplanned pregnancies. “There is evidence to suggest that these pills are less dangerous and have fewer incidents than Tylenol or Viagra.”
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Bill asks for penalties
The legislation initially required doctors to keep detailed records of patients who present for abortion complications and called for possible jail time for doctors who fail to comply with the proposed law, which a Nashville doctor says , could have a dangerous deterrent effect on women seeking care after miscarriages and abortions.
A Senate amendment to the bill struck down reporting requirements and jail time, though the legislation maintains that violating the proposed law would be classified as a felony and punishable by up to $50,000. Patients who receive prescription drugs are protected under the proposed bill.
Nashville emergency physician Dr. Katrina Green spoke out this week against the legislation, specifically against any reporting requirements that could intimidate women seeking medical attention for chemical abortions and miscarriages, medically called miscarriages. . The two are often indistinguishable, Green said.
“I strongly believe in the right of my patients to decide what’s best for them,” Green said. “Part of that is having the ability to decide what happens with their pregnancies.”
Asked about doctors’ concern about the legislation’s possible chilling effect on women seeking medical care after an abortion or miscarriage, Smith said the legislation “advocates patient safety.”
“What this bill simply does is establish protections for patients who Planned Parenthood believes could transmit lemon-sized blood clots as part of this chemical abortion,” Smith said.
Tennessee’s legislation mirrors a series of similar anti-abortion measures introduced in the United States in recent months after the Food and Drug Administration approved telehealth delivery and distribution of the drug last year. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia lawmakers this week proposed a similar ban on women receiving the abortion bill in the mail or at universities that receive state funding.
Contact Melissa Brown at [email protected]
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