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Senate OKs ban on telemedicine for medical abortions

The Ohio Senate voted Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 260, a ban on using telemedicine to provide patients with access to medication, the drugs, specifically Mifepristone and Misoprostol that are used regularly in Ohio’s abortion facilities, for abortion care.

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The final vote was 20-9, as some members were absent, to approve the legislation that went along party lines, but Sen. Stephanie Kunze and Sen. Nathan Manning joined the Democrats in opposing the bill, which will now go to the the Ohio House for consideration.

Those in support of the bill’s passage say they believe it is crucial to visit a doctor in person when a woman takes mifepristone for a chemical abortion to assure safety and to answer questions.

Opponents of the bill state that women seeking abortions are still required to visit a clinic for counseling and an ultrasound a day ahead of the procedure under laws that are currently on the books.

Senate Bill 260 prohibits a physician from personally furnishing or providing an abortion-inducing drug to a pregnant woman unless the physician is physically present where and when the initial dose of the drug is consumed.

It Also makes knowingly violating the prohibition a fourth degree felony for the first offense and a third degree felony for the second and subsequent offenses.

The bill’s main sponsor, 5th District State Senator, Steve Huffman, said the passage of the bill is all about safety.

“To me it is all about safety,” Huffman told the Dayton Daily News following the vote. “There is a place and time for telemedicine in Ohio, but this isn’t one of them. It is about safety and I think it will eventually end up on Gov. DeWine’s desk to be signed into law.”

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Executive Director of the Dayton Right to Life, Margie Christie, said she was pleased that the bill passed.

I testified in support of the telemedicine abortion ban February 19 in committee,” she said. “We are never in support of any type of abortion drug use, however, if it will be used we want it be as safe as possible, obviously not for the child but for the woman. These drugs are extremely dangerous to women.”

Christie said she feels telemedicine would only exacerbate the situation for these vulnerable women.

“Telemedicine takes this very important discussion between a woman and a doctor and minimizes it to a impersonal exchange of information. Of course it is less expensive for the abortion provider,” Christie said.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland called the bill’s passage a defeat for access to healthcare for women.

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“Lawmakers pushing these restrictions on abortion access are out of step with Ohio values. Ohioans overwhelmingly support abortion access,” Copeland said. “Everyone deserves access to health care on their terms and in their communities, including the rural communities served by telemedicine.”

She said women deserve quality affordable abortion care in their communities without stigma, shame, or delay.

“The abortion restrictions we’re seeing debated at the Ohio Statehouse and at the U.S. Supreme Court would deprive people of their ability to make their own health care decisions,” Copeland said. “In our state, and across the country, legislators have been waging a relentless assault on access to all forms of reproductive health care, all the while our infant and maternal mortality rates are at crisis level—especially in the black community.”

The ACLU Ohio also was an opponent of Senate Bill 260, as its Chief Lobbyist, Gary Daniels said, “serious complications have proven to be extremely rare from the use of mifepristone while the New England Journal of Medicine points out, ‘the risk of death is four times higher for Viagra than for mifepristone, and common anticoagulant drugs carry a much higher risk of serious bleeding.’”

MORE: Dayton-area’s last abortion clinic gets license to stay open

In November of 2019, the Ohio Department of Health’s announced that it had granted a surgical facility license to the Women’s Med Center in Kettering after the abortion clinic’s years-long court battle to stay open.

The ODH ruling was a clear victory for the Dayton area’s last abortion clinic, and came just two weeks after the Ohio Supreme Court denied an appeal from the center.

ODH Director of Health, Amy Acton, stated in a letter obtained by this news organization that, “I am granting the variance request of Women’s Med Center of Dayton. This variance is an alternative to the requirement for a written transfer agreement. I may rescind this variance at any time and for any reason.”