Pence signs bill for tighter abortion pill rules

By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Wednesday a bill tightening Indiana’s abortion pill regulations that opponents say mostly targets operations at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Lafayette.

Soon after the governor’s office announced that the bill had been signed, Planned Parenthood officials said they anticipated challenging it in court.

Pence had supported the bill as it moved through the Republican-dominated Legislature, clearing the House and Senate by wide margins last month.

The new law will require clinics that provide only drug-induced abortions to meet the same standards as clinics that perform surgical abortions. The law’s opponents contend the restrictions are aimed at the Lafayette clinic that’s the only site in the state providing the abortion pill but not surgical abortions.

Pence said in a statement that he believed in both protecting the right to life and the health of women.

“Abortion-inducing drugs can be very dangerous, and must be prescribed under conditions that ensure proper medical care,” Pence said. “This new law helps accomplish that goal.”

Other provisions of the law prohibit the abortion drugs from being given to a woman more than nine weeks pregnant unless federal regulations approve use after that. It also requires 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.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana President Betty Cockrum said the organization was reviewing the law and that a lawsuit against it was “very likely.”

“The additional regulations in this bill are in no way related to ”˜patient safety,’” Cockrum said.
“Legislators really intend to chip away at Hoosier women’s access to abortion — and as part of a coordinated national effort, shut down Planned Parenthood’s health care centers that also provide preventive care.”

A governor’s spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the lawsuit possibility.

Most states already have the same clinic regulations for those providing medical or surgical abortions, with Indiana among six states with current regulations only on surgical abortion sites, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that does research on reproductive health.

Planned Parenthood officials have said the additional standards would force the Lafayette clinic to follow rules such as ensuring that procedure and recovery rooms are the right size, even though its only abortion service consists of doctors providing pills. Women take the pill at the office, then leave and let the drugs take effect.

Supporters of the law said the Lafayette clinic still could continue offering services such as birth control and screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

The final version of the bill dropped earlier provisions that aimed at having doctors perform two ultrasounds on women seeking the abortion drugs. Planned Parenthood said its doctors perform ultrasounds before all abortions, but opposed mandating medical procedures by law.

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

The new law’s provisions on abortion pill distribution are to take effect July 1 and its sections covering clinic standards in January.

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