New Abortion Restrictions in Missouri: Gov. Jay Nixon Allows Passage of GOP Legislation

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The abortion pill.
New abortion restrictions are coming to Missouri.

Today, Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, announced that he is not taking any action on a controversial GOP bill that places new limits on non-surgical abortions, which means that the proposal will become law.

Women's rights groups and Democrats have vocally opposed House Bill 400, legislation that puts in place stricter requirements for the use of RU-486, also called mifepristone, or other "abortion-inducing drugs." The bill's sponsors say it's an effort to increase safety for women seeking this kind of service -- while critics say it's a clear anti-abortion initiative that could have the impact of altogether blocking this option for some Missouri women.

See also:
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Critics of the proposal have urged Nixon to veto the measure and though he did not actually sign the bill, he gave it the green light today through his inaction.

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The short bill establishes that women must take the initial dose of the drug in person in the presence of the physician who prescribed it:

When RU-486 (mifepristone) or any drug or chemical is used for the purpose of inducing an abortion, the initial dose of the drug or chemical shall be administered in the same room and in the physical presence of the physician who prescribed, dispensed, or otherwise provided the drug or chemical to the patient. The physician inducing the abortion, or a person acting on such physician's behalf, shall make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the patient returns after the administration or use of RU-486 or any drug or chemical for a follow-up visit unless such termination of the pregnancy has already been confirmed and the patient's medical condition has been assessed by a licensed physician prior to discharge.

Asked about his decision to take no action, the governor apparently said:

He also, it seems, didn't want to block it.

Critics charge that the requirements prescribed in the bill are not necessary and could discourage or prevent women -- especially in rural parts of Missouri -- from choosing this option.

The bill essentially bans what is referred to as "telemedicine services" in the state, which critics of the legislation say is a safe practice and an important option for those who live far from clinics. Ten states have similar laws on the books.

Planned Parenthood says that one out of every five of its patients locally travels more than 100 miles to get to its clinics.

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Rep. Jeanie Riddle, House Bill 400's sponsor.

In a statement, the organization says that women in the U.S. have been safely and legally using this non-surgical abortion method for a decade, which gives women the option of a more private and less invasive method of ending a pregnancy.

"People in rural areas often have to drive very long distances to see a doctor in person. Health care centers, particularly in these areas, increasingly use telemedicine services for patients to receive quality medical care," says the joint statement by Paula Gianino, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri and Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "The Legislature's attempt to ban safe and effective non-surgical abortion through telemedicine leaves rural Missourians behind when it comes to the latest advances in medical technology."

Here is a full copy of the bill and Planned Parenthood's full statement.

House Bill 400

GOVERNOR NIXON ALLOWS HARMFUL ABORTION RESTRICTIONS TO BECOME LAW

Planned Parenthood Advocates Urged Governor Nixon to Veto HB400 and Protect Women's Health in Missouri

Missouri -- Today, Governor Nixon allowed HB400 to become law, advancing additional unnecessary restrictions on a very safe medical procedure. The bill comes on the heels of two other misguided efforts to reduce access to birth control at pharmacies (SB126) and divert $2.5 million in tax funds to unlicensed and discredited pregnancy resource centers (SB20&HB698). The Missouri Legislature advanced proposals designed to endanger women's health while failing to expand Medicaid.

In a joint statement, Paula Gianino, President and CEO, ADVOCATES of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri and Peter Brownlie, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri released the following:

"We are deeply disappointed that Governor Nixon allowed HB400, the non-surgical abortion bill, to become law. Women in the United States have been safely and legally using non-surgical abortion for over a decade. Non-surgical abortion gives a woman the option of a more private and less invasive method of ending a pregnancy, in a setting in which she feels most comfortable. People in rural areas often have to drive very long distances to see a doctor in person. Health care centers, particularly in these areas, increasingly use telemedicine services for patients to receive quality medical care. The Legislature's attempt to ban safe and effective non-surgical abortion through telemedicine leaves rural Missourians behind when it comes to the latest advances in medical technology.

HB400 is another harmful restriction, in a long list of restrictions that does absolutely nothing to prevent unintended pregnancy. The Missouri Legislature has placed women's health at risk by choosing to divert tax credits to unlicensed, discredited pregnancy resource centers while refusing to increase access to preventive and life-saving health care through Medicaid expansion.

If the legislature truly cared about reducing the number of abortions in Missouri they would send legislation to the Governor that increases access to family planning services and provides Missouri's youth with comprehensive sex education."

Each year, Planned Parenthood health centers in Missouri see nearly 80,000 individuals for medical and educational services, including birth control. Nationwide, Planned Parenthood provides birth control for 2.5 million patients.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.



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