Indiana targets abortion pill: House drops ultrasound provision

Indiana's new abortion pill legislation, passed by the Indiana House today, would limit distribution of the abortion pill.

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    Planned Parenthood supporter Peg Paulson of Carmel, Ind. (l.) argues with abortion opponent Heather Pruett of Indianapolis (r.) during a rally at the Indiana Statehouse, March 2011. Both houses of the Indiana legislature have passed versions of a bill limiting access to the abortion pill.
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A bill that would tighten state laws on distribution of the abortion pill and require clinics that provide only drug-induced abortions to meet the same standards as clinics that perform surgical abortions was approved by a wide margin Tuesday in the Indiana House.

The proposed facility rules likely would cover only a single Planned Parenthood clinic in Lafayette, but abortion opponents say the requirements would prevent the opening of other clinics around the state that would distribute the abortion pill.

The 70-26 vote by the Republican-controlled House in favor of the bill comes a week after a House committee dropped Senate-approved provisions that would have put into law a requirement that doctors perform an ultrasound on women before giving them the abortion drugs. Planned Parenthood of Indiana said its doctors typically perform ultrasounds before any abortions, but opposed mandating medical procedures by law.

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Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, said during Tuesday's debate that whatever type of ultrasound procedure is done will be up to the doctor but that the bill would make it a felony for a doctor to give a woman the abortion pill if she was more than nine weeks pregnant.

"From my beginning, my intent was to seek out a remedy to safeguard our young women who have chosen this path," said Negele, the House sponsor of the bill.

Planned Parenthood officials have said the additional standards are unnecessary and would force the Lafayette clinic to follow rules such as the size of procedure and recovery rooms even though its only abortion service consists of doctors providing pills. The group has said if the bill becomes law it would keep the Lafayette clinic open to continue providing services such as birth control and screenings for cancer and for sexually transmitted diseases, but would have to review whether it can afford a remodeling project to continue distributing the abortion pill.

Nine surgical abortion clinics are currently licensed in Indiana, including three run by Planned Parenthood, according to state records.

Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, said during Tuesday's House debate that she was disappointed that the Legislature was again advancing more abortion restrictions while not doing more to help women and children.

"Why aren't we talking about birth control?" Lawson said. "Why aren't we talking about education for a young mother? Why aren't we talking about maternity leave? Why aren't we talking about housing allowances?"

Six House Democrats voted with 64 Republicans in favor of the bill Tuesday, with one Republican joining 25 Democrats in voting against it.

The bill's provisions are likely to now become law. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said in a statement that he was "inclined to agree" with changes made by the House and support the Senate agreeing with the revised bill.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence is staunchly anti-abortion and led an unsuccessful federal Planned Parenthood defunding push in 2011 while he was in Congress.

Other provisions in the bill would prohibit the abortion drugs from being given to a woman more than nine weeks pregnant unless federal regulations approve it for use after that time. It also would require clinics to provide information on the dangers of abortion-causing drugs and offer women the option of viewing an ultrasound or hearing the fetal heart tone.

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