Campaign Life Missouri and Planned Parenthood debate abortion pill
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Campaign Life Missouri and Planned Parenthood debate abortion pill

Date: February 1, 2012
By: Josie Butler
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB1274

JEFFERSON CITY -Administrators from Planned Parenthood and the Missouri Catholic Council clashed over a House bill that would create more restrictions on the administration of abortion drugs. 

"This bill would seek to protect women by placing reasonable regulations and giving women basic information before using an abortion-inducing drug," bill sponsor Rep. Andrew Koenig, R- St. Louis County, said. "I believe it would reduce the number of abortions in the state" 

The bill would restrict the sale of RU-486 and other abortion inducing drugs that terminates a pregnancy in the first seven weeks. A prescription would be required 24 hours before administration of the drug by a licensed physician in a hospital or abortion facility. It would also prohibit "telemed" abortions which allow a woman to have an abortion in her home under the supervision of a physician via teleconference. 

According to Planned Parenthood, they adopted telemedicine to increase clinical availability in rural areas.

"It is a protection bill for women," a spokesperson for Missouri Right to Life, Susan Klein, said. "It's to assure that women are getting the best care possible."

Michelle Trupiano, a spokesperson from Planned Parenthood, said this bill has nothing to do with protecting women's health and the bill will not reduce abortions.

"All this bill does is make abortion harder to access, it does absolutely nothing to protect women's health," Trupiano said. "If the legislature was really serious about reducing the number of abortions they should enact the Prevention First Act and focus on access to family planning services and access to comprehensive sex education, things that actually work."

The Prevention First Act aims to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases by increasing access to information and services.

Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, D-St. Louis County, said she worries the restrictions might drive women underground and increase the purchase of RU-486 on the internet. 

"Only a doctor can, now, perform or induce an abortion in Missouri," Trupiano said. "You currently have to follow the very long, very restrictive 24-hour waiting period process." 

The current abortion-pill distribution procedure requires the woman to come into the clinic for blood work, an ultrasound and a meeting with a physician. Within the next 72 hours the woman returns to the clinic to receive the first dose. She is then given the second dose, misoprostol, and pain medication along with instructions on how to self-administer the drug at home 24 to 48 hours after the first dose. 

"If we, according to the bill, were to require that woman come back and get that medication from the doctor, then what's going to be happening, is that women will then leave and be having the symptoms in their car," Trupiano said. "This is why this is not the standard of care."

Symptoms include strong cramps, nausea and heavy bleeding.

"We want to make sure that they are in a safe place, where they are not having to leave or drive," Trupiano said.

Dr. Ed Weisbart, a family physician from Olivette, said the current procedure is one of the safest procedures women can go through.

"It's actually far safer than going through pregnancy," Weisbart said. "Some of the (witnesses) are either profoundly misinformed or contextually misdirected." 

The FDA protocol only allows this to be done up to 49 days, or seven weeks, into the pregnancy. Lee said Planned Parenthood clinics in Missouri routinely do them after that time.

"Complications happen in less than 1 percent of women," Trupiano said. "We've never had to do a follow-up surgery in Missouri."

Trupiano said she believes advocates for the bill have no desire to protect women's health. She said she believes their only goal is to eliminate abortions.

"If that harms women in any way, they really don't care," Trupiano said. 

Wednesday also marked the day Planned Parenthood in Columbia restarted their abortion services, after a year without providing any.

The committee has not yet taken any action.