By Kathy Ostrowski, Legislative Director, Kansans for Life
This afternoon, the Kansas Senate passed a “technical clarification” that aims to ensure that abortionists be physically present when a woman receives chemical abortifacients. So-called “webcam abortions” are premised on the abortionist never being in the same room as the woman.
Fifteen other states have such bans already in place, with two more going into effect in July.
The Overland Park, Kansas, father-daughter abortion duo at the Center for Women’s Health sued the Kansas 2011 Abortion clinic licensure law in its entirety and obtained a block against it before the law was scheduled to go into effect. The law included language governing abortions “by pill.”
Center for Women’s Health attorneys had complained that the original abortion pill provision potentially interfered with medication-induced abortions in hospitals. Today’s language should satisfy them of legislative intent. This would allow the Kansas Attorney General to petition the Shawnee County District Court to grant a motion allowing the abortion pill provision it to go into effect while litigation proceeds.
Senator Jacob LaTurner (R-Pittsburg) carried the measure and the Senate passed the measure 39-0 without debate. The House is expected to take up the measure next week after the holiday break.
The new language clarifies that, except in the case of labor induction abortions at hospitals, the RU 486 (mifepristone) abortion drug
“shall initially be administered by or in the same room and in the physical presence of the physician who prescribed, dispensed or otherwise provided the drug to the patient.”
The new language also grants an exception for a medical emergency posing a threat to the mother’s life or physical health. As updated last year, “medical emergency” applies uniformly to all Kansas abortion statutes and satisfies the past concerns of the abortion clinic attorneys suing this 2011 law.
The RU486 abortion pill protocol used in Kansas and nationally typically involves a woman taking an initial dose of RU486 (mifepristone) and then a second drug (misoprostol), generally taken at home.
These abortions “by pill” cause excessive bleeding– four times as much as surgical abortions, and pose serious risks to women. As of 2011, the FDA reported abortion pills were associated with at least 14 reported deaths and over 2,200 “adverse” events including 612 hospitalizations, 340 transfusions and 58 undetected (and life-threatening) ectopic pregnancies.
Despite the risky nature of this protocol, abortionists in Iowa implemented “webcam” abortions that excluded an in-person exam or consultation with a physician. In a “webcam” abortion, the pills are dispensed via a drawer beneath a computer screen, activated after on-screen contact with the abortionist who is never in the same room and could be hundreds of miles away.
Of note, the Iowa Board of Medicine opposed the substitution of a webcam contact for an in-person abortion exam and consultation. The rule requiring the abortionist to be onsite was passed in September 2013. After being upheld in district court, it was put on hold when Planned Parenthood appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Webcam abortions eliminate the expense of hiring onsite abortionists, and might especially appeal to abortion clinics that currently rely on non-resident “fly-in” practitioners, as does the South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas.