- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas lawmakers voted to impose new limits on the administration of the abortion pill Thursday, one of several efforts to restrict the abortion gaining traction after Republicans widened their majorities in the state Legislature.

The bill approved by the House on a 61-7 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.

Republican Rep. Charlene Fite of Van Buren, the lawmaker behind the proposal, said the move was to protect women’s health by barring non-federally approved uses of the drug, a practice commonly referred to as off-label.

“We have said we want to make abortion rare and safe,” Fite said. “Let’s do that for the women of Arkansas. Let’s make it as safe as we possibly can.”

But one opponent of the measure said it would have the opposite effect, noting that it would require a higher dose of the abortion-inducing medication.

“I respect that she thinks she’s making abortion safer, but she’s really making it much more dangerous,” said Democratic Rep. Deborah Ferguson of West Memphis.

Fite’s proposal now heads to the Senate, which is expected to vote Monday on another proposal that would prohibit public funding to groups that perform abortions or abortion referrals. The move is aimed at Planned Parenthood, which has received grants from the state for sex education programs.

The proposals to further restrict the procedure come after Republicans expanded their majorities in the Legislature and won control of the governor’s office in the November election.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson last week signed into law a bill to require a doctor to be physically present when a woman takes abortion-inducing medication, a move aimed at preventing the use of videoconferencing to administer the drug. State lawmakers in 2013 enacted some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion limits - banning most abortions 12 and 20 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. A federal judge has struck down the 12-week ban and the state has appealed the ruling.

A spokesman for Hutchinson said the governor was monitoring the House-backed bill but stopped short of saying whether he supports it.


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

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