- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 11, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Proposed new limits on the abortion pill advanced to a final vote in the state Senate on Wednesday, despite objections from opponents that the Legislature was overstepping its bounds in telling doctors how to do their job.

The proposal endorsed by the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on a 5-2 vote would override doctors and require abortion pill providers to follow guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It would require women take a higher dose of the medication than what is typically prescribed and restrict the time period for administering it from up to nine weeks to up to seven weeks.

The measure would also bar non-federally approved uses of the drug, a practice commonly referred to as off-label. The Senate could vote on the House-backed bill as soon as Thursday.

“This bill is necessary to protect women from the dangerous and potentially deadly off-label use of this drug regimen,” Republican Rep. Charlene Fite of Van Buren, the bill’s sponsor, told the committee.

Opponents of the measure have said the restrictions will have the opposite effect.

“This bill seeks to restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion by prohibiting evidence-based medicine when it comes to abortion,” Ashley Wright, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the committee. “Medicine is a constantly evolving field in which new technologies and new research lead to better treatments every day. I urge you to allow medical professionals to practice evidence-based medicine and to vote no on (the bill).”

The proposal is among several abortion restrictions easily gaining support in the Legislature after Republicans expanded their majority in both chambers and won the governor’s office.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month signed into law a measure banning the use of video conferencing to administer the abortion pill, and the Senate earlier this week approved a measure prohibiting public funding to groups that perform abortions or abortion referrals. The proposal, which is pending before a House panel, is aimed at Planned Parenthood, which has received grants from the state for sex education programs.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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