Governor inks law to ban telemedicine abortions

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law legislation that requires a physician to be in the room during a chemical abortion.

The Senate was notified Wednesday that the Republican governor signed Senate Bill 59. Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, was the Senate sponsor. Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, was the bill's House sponsor.

The new law will be known as Act 139.

It will become effective 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

Act 139 bars telemedicine abortions.

Sometimes referred to as webcam abortions, they are currently unavailable in Arkansas, according to the bill's supporters and opponents.

Act 139 also requires doctors to make "all reasonable efforts" to ensure the patient returns between 12 and 18 days after the procedure for a follow-up examination so that doctors can confirm that the pregnancy has been terminated and can assess the patient's medical condition.

The measure states that it "does not affect telemedicine practice that does not involve the use of mifepristone or another drug or chemical to induce an abortion."

If the Arkansas State Medical Board finds that a doctor licensed by the board has violated the rules of professional conduct by performing an abortion in violation of this measure, the board is required to revoke the doctor's license under the law. But a penalty "shall not be assessed against the woman upon whom the abortion is performed or attempted to be performed."

Hutchinson signaled his support for such legislation on Jan. 18 during the March for Life rally in Little Rock, where he called for reversing the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Referring to the use of telemedicine during abortion procedures, Hutchinson said, "As governor, I support telemedicine, but this is not the right application. It should be prohibited."

Arkansas Right to Life lauded Hutchinson for signing the legislation into law, while the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland criticized Hutchinson for doing so.

Arkansas Right to Life tweeted Wednesday afternoon, "Thank you Gov. Hutchinson, Senator Irvin & Rep. Mayberry. You are lifesavers! No webcam abortion in AR!"

But Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a written statement that "it's crystal clear that these laws are motivated by a desire to keep a woman who has decided to have an abortion from getting one.

"We all want women to be safe, but these laws aren't about improving care for women. They're designed by politicians, not doctors, to cut off access to safe, legal abortion by any means necessary."

Metro on 02/26/2015

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