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By Megan Banta
A House committee Wednesday passed a bill that would change the definition of abortion in Indiana to include those procedures done with drugs, which means even non-surgical clinics would be required to meet surgical standards.
The Public Policy Committee amended the provisions into Senate Bill 371, a bill that formerly required women to receive an ultrasound before receiving an abortion-inducing drug.
Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, the bill's sponsor, said the goal of the bill is patient safety. She said a facility that provides abortion-inducing drugs should "have the proper safeguards in place." A Planned Parenthood clinic in Lafayette is expected to the facility hit hardest by the proposed changes.
Dr. Christina Francis, an OB-GYN, said she sees patients who have serious complications, including retained tissue and uterine infections, after taking abortion-inducing drugs.
Francis said the drugs are not benign and have several potentially adverse outcomes. She said they "should only be given out in a facility that is equipped to handle those outcomes" and by doctors who are trained to handle them.
But those who oppose the bill say it is not about patient safety. They said it actually endangers women's health, especially that of poor women.
Kristen Hollister, a student at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said the bill is "marginalizing poor women who do not have access to a private physician." She said that's because the legislation would add new requirements for clinics that use abortion-inducing drugs while exempting them for private physician's offices.
Reba Wooden, executive director of Center for Inquiry Indiana, said the true purpose of the bill is to target Planned Parenthood of Indiana.
Liz Carroll, vice president for patient services of PPIN, said the bill provides unnecessary regulation of the group's health center in Lafayette by requiring surgical standards of a facility that is not providing surgical services.
"We want to be sure that women receive access to safe, legal, medically supervised abortions," she said. "But we believe imposing these kinds of licensing standards on the distribution of a medication that can be safely distributed by a licensed physician in their office is going to cut back on access, force women to make choices that may not be in their best interest."
Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, said that might include ordering abortion pills on the web. She asked Negele to think about that possibility "as you want to make it more difficult for women to get services that are perfectly legal."
Errington also called the bill a "perfect example of government overreach into a business."
But Mike Fichter, head of Indiana Right to Life, said the issue is much broader than one Planned Parenthood facility in Lafayette.
He said the real issue is that "current Indiana law leaves the door wide open for expanding the use of chemical abortions at facilities that are neither licensed or inspected by the state of Indiana using a process that the FDA itself connects to the death of 14 women in the United States."
The committee passed the bill 8-5. It now moves to the full House for consideration.
Megan Banta is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.