Senate approves ‘webcam abortion’ ban, 39-25

MCCL-backed bill seeks women’s safety

Minnesota State Sen. Paul Gazelka

ST. PAUL — Legislation to ban “webcam abortions” was approved 39-25 by the Minnesota Senate late yesterday. The women’s safety measure has the strong support of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization.

H.F. 2341, authored by Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, would stop dangerous webcam abortions by requiring that a physician be physically present when administering the drugs for a chemical 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 opens a drawer to remotely dispense the drug.

The doctor is never physically present in a webcam abortion to examine the woman for any problems, such as a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy or any other condition or factor, that would make this abortion procedure especially dangerous for her. Planned Parenthood began offering webcam abortions last year at its Rochester facility; women consult with a doctor in St. Paul.

“This legislation focuses primarily on the life of the mother,” Gazelka said during the floor debate. “Currently in Minnesota, some chemical abortions are being performed without a physician physically present. Instead, the physician is watching via webcam from a different city or location.”

The risks of RU486 can be severe: 14 women are known to have died in the U.S. after taking the drugs, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Last month, an Australian agency disclosed that a woman there died from an infection after taking RU486. A prominent gynecologist and advocate of the drug has called for a review of the drug’s protocol.

At least six states, including North Dakota and Wisconsin, have already enacted webcam abortion bans, and other states are currently working to pass legislation to the same effect. Canada does not permit use of RU486 due to safety concerns.

“RU486 is not an aspirin; it’s not a prescription. It’s dangerous,” Gazelka added. “This [requiring a physician to be present] may not be the most cost-effective way for Planned Parenthood to deliver abortions, but it certainly considers the life of the mother.”

A companion bill was approved in the House on Apr. 18 on a vote of 80-48. The women’s safety measure is expected to be sent to Gov. Mark Dayton soon.

“Governor Dayton should recognize that such a serious and life-altering procedure as abortion deserves the presence of a physician,” said MCCL Legislative Associate Jordan Harris. “His veto would greatly increase the health risks to women who are administered this abortion method remotely without being examined by a physician.”