- Associated Press - Thursday, January 29, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas House committee approved a proposal Thursday to require a doctor be present when women take abortion-inducing medication.

The Public Health, Welfare, and Labor committee Thursday voted to send the bill to the full House.

The measure would prevent any instance of the medication being administered through telemedicine - which does not currently happen in the state - and require that doctors make “all reasonable efforts” to schedule a follow-up visit with the woman 12 to 18 days later.

Republican Rep. Julie Mayberry of Hensley said her bill is aimed at protecting the health of women who might have adverse reactions to abortion-inducing pills. She denounced what she called “webcam abortions” and said a doctor should be present.

“The argument has always been to keep it legal and to keep it safe,” Mayberry said. “This bill keeps chemical abortion legal; it doesn’t change the status quo in Arkansas.”

Opponents said a decision about whether to use telemedicine should be made between doctors and patients. They said nurses or other health care professionals are typically with a woman if the doctor isn’t in the same location when the pill is administered.

“It is not in the best interest of the health and safety of patients for lawmakers to instruct doctors in the practice of medicine,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the local American Civil Liberties Union.

Thirty-eight states require abortion medication to be given by a licensed physician, and 16 states require the medication to be given in person, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that supports abortion access. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which runs abortion clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville, provides abortion medication, but not remotely.

Mayberry said her bill is proactive.

“It is much easier to prevent something than it is to stop it after it gets started,” Mayberry said.

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