Ind. Senate passes bill requiring ultrasound before drug-induced abortion

Bill also regulates clinics that prescribe drug

INDIANAPOLIS - Women seeking abortion-inducing drugs would have to get ultrasounds first and the clinics that prescribe them would have to follow a new set of regulations under a measure approved by the Senate on Tuesday.

The bill passed on a 33-16 vote despite a chorus of complaints from opponents who said it’s a step too far into doctors’ offices without improving their patients’ health.

“This bill is not about patient safety. It’s about patient harassment,” said Sen. Vaneta Becker of Evansville, who was one of only four of the Senate’s 37 Republicans to join the 12 Democrats who opposed the bill.

Now, Senate Bill 371 heads to the House, where Republican Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis said he expects it to win passage as well -- perhaps after some changes.

The bill would make Indiana the ninth state to require ultrasounds before abortions. It would also require clinics that prescribe the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 to meet the same standards as surgical clinics, even though it would not impose that same requirement on private physicians.

That portion of the measure would directly affect Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Lafayette, Ind. That clinic prescribes patients the drug, but does not offer surgical abortions.

“This bill is directly targeted to Planned Parenthood in Lafayette, Ind. That’s all it’s about, is getting at Planned Parenthood in Lafayette, Ind.,” Becker said.  “When you do this, you’re not doing anything that will improve the health and safety of low-income women in the state of Indiana. All you’re doing is forcing them to go other ways -- in particular, to the Internet -- to get this same particular drug that you’re talking about regulating.”

Tuesday’s debate on the Senate floor was controlled almost entirely by opponents of the bill.

Democrats argued that for women seeking abortions, the bill aims to “make it as difficult as possible, make it as intrusive as possible, and then maybe somebody will change their mind,” said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis.

“This is not going to help women be healthy. This is just going to make it harder for them to get an abortion,” he said.

Another Democrat -- Sen. Jean Breaux of Indianapolis -- said the bill would lead women to order the drug online rather than visiting a doctor at all.

“The backers of this bill,” she said, “are interested in making abortion, which is a safe and legal procedure, less accessible to Hoosier women.”

The bill has been controversial because it could -- especially in early stages of pregnancies, when the abortion-inducing drug is more likely to be prescribed -- require doctors to perform more invasive transvaginal ultrasounds, rather than “jelly-on-the-belly” abdominal ultrasounds.

Though doctors say they recommend ultrasounds before any abortion, opponents said it’s inappropriate to mandate the procedure.

The only senator to speak in the bill’s favor was its author, Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.

“I am not active in a Right to Life organization. I introduced this bill because my own religious conviction and my respect for life and the health of women,” Holdman said. “There has been no regulation of abortion-inducing drugs in the state of Indiana, and there are a number of us that believe that we need to have some regulation.”

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