Monday, February 27, 2012

Senate panel approves two MCCL-backed bills on women’s safety

The following news release was issued today, Feb. 27, 2012.

ST. PAUL — Bills to prohibit dangerous "webcam abortions" and to require licensure of abortion centers were approved by the Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services Committee today on voice votes. It was the first hearing for both measures seeking women's safety, which have the strong support of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL).

S.F. 1912 (H.F. 2341), authored by Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, would stop dangerous webcam abortions by requiring that a physician be physically present during an abortion. Webcam abortions involve the RU486 abortion drug, administered via video conference with an abortion provider in another location. The doctor talks with the woman, then presses a button which remotely opens a drawer to dispense the drug. The doctor is never physically present to examine the woman for any problems such as a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. Planned Parenthood began offering webcam abortions last year at its Rochester facility; women consult with a doctor in St. Paul.

"Abortion is like no other procedure, as the courts have recognized. As Justice Potter Stewart wrote for the majority in Harris v. McRae (1980), 'Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life,'" said MCCL Legislative Associate Jordan Marie Harris in testimony. "This legislation seeks to protect women by requiring that a physician be in the same room and in the physical presence of the woman when administering RU486."

Three advocates of webcam abortion testified, including Dr. Carrie Terrell of Whole Women's Health abortion center in Minneapolis, and Karen Law of Pro-Choice Resources. No mention was made of the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, a hallmark of "pro-choice" arguments.

S.F. 1921 (H.F. 2340), authored by Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, would require facilities that perform 10 or more abortions per month to be licensed. The state commissioner of health would establish rules necessary for licensure. The bill also authorizes the commissioner to perform inspections of abortion facilities as deemed necessary, with no prior notice required.

"The purpose of all government regulation is to protect the public by enforcing minimum standards. This legislation asks the Department of Health to determine specifically what these standards would be," MCCL Legislative Associate Andrea Rau testified.

No one testified in opposition to the bill. Both bills will now be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.