Bills in 5 states target 'webcam abortions'

2013-02-12T00:00:00Z Bills in 5 states target 'webcam abortions'Bloomberg News Bloomberg News Arizona Daily Star
February 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Almost five years ago, Amy Hagstrom Miller became one of the first U.S. abortion providers to use video technology allowing doctors to prescribe drugs to end unwanted pregnancies.

Doctors at her clinic in Austin, Texas, could prescribe the pills to women in McAllen, about 300 miles away on the Mexican border, via phone and video conference. Telemedicine eliminated drive time for physicians and doubled to 24 the number of days per month the service was offered.

It didn't last long. A law that took effect last year requires doctors to show and describe ultrasound images of the fetus to women seeking an abortion. The provider must be in the same room as the patient.

In the past two years, as states approved a record 135 abortion restrictions, nine followed Texas' lead to pass legislation outlawing what opponents call "webcam" or "push-button" abortions. In fact, no provider in any of those states offered abortions that way.

Telemedicine bans are the latest weapon in a broader fight over abortion-inducing drugs, which since their advent over a decade ago have transformed the procedure. Instead of seeking surgery, now a woman early in her pregnancy can start an abortion at her physician's office with a pill and finish the process at home.

To anti-abortion forces, the drugs are seen as vehicles for the procedure to become more widely available.

This year, legislation introduced in at least five states - Iowa, Alabama, Indiana, Missouri and Mississippi - would require that doctors be physically present to examine patients before prescribing abortion-inducing drugs.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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