Minnesota Senate OKs Ban on Dangerous Webcam Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 24, 2012   |   1:25PM   |   St. Paul, MN

The Minnesota state Senate has approved a ban on dangerous webcam abortions — when women are prevented by an abortion clinic from an in-person visit with a physician prior to getting the RU 486 abortion drug.

The Minnesota Senate approved the ban on a 39-25 vote yesterday. H.F. 2341, authored by Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, would stop dangerous webcam abortions by requiring that a physician be physically present when administering the drugs for an abortion using the dangerous mifepristone drug. Webcam abortions involve the RU 486 abortion drug, administered via video conference with an abortion provider in another location. The doctor talks with the woman, then presses a button which opens a drawer to remotely dispense the drug.

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life supported the bill because the doctor is never physically present in a webcam abortion to examine the woman for any problems, such as a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy or any other condition or factor that would make this abortion procedure especially dangerous for her. Planned Parenthood began offering webcam abortions last year at its Rochester facility; women consult with a doctor in St. Paul.

“This legislation focuses primarily on the life of the mother,” Gazelka said during the floor debate. “Currently in Minnesota, some chemical abortions are being performed without a physician physically present. Instead, the physician is watching via webcam from a different city or location.”

“RU 486 is not an aspirin; it’s not a prescription. It’s dangerous,” Gazelka added. “This [requiring a physician to be present] may not be the most cost-effective way for Planned Parenthood to deliver abortions, but it certainly considers the life of the mother.”

The risks of RU 486 can be severe: 14 women are known to have died in the U.S. after taking the drugs, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Last month, an Australian agency disclosed that a woman there died from an infection after taking RU 486. A prominent gynecologist and advocate of the drug has called for a review of the drug’s protocol.

At least six states, including North Dakota and Wisconsin, have already enacted webcam abortion bans, and other states are currently working to pass legislation to the same effect. Canada does not permit use of RU 486 due to safety concerns. Because of a new pro-life law in Wisconsin that prohibits selling the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug via webcam and without an in-person consultation with a physician, Planned Parenthood will stop selling mifepristone there.

A companion bill to the Minnesota Senate measure was approved in the House on Apr. 18 on a vote of 80-48 and a final version of the legislation is expected to be sent to pro-abortion Gov. Mark Dayton soon.

“Governor Dayton should recognize that such a serious and life-altering procedure as abortion deserves the presence of a physician,” said MCCL Legislative Associate Jordan Harris. “His veto would greatly increase the health risks to women who are administered this abortion method remotely without being examined by a physician.”

“Abortion is like no other procedure, as the courts have recognized. As Justice Potter Stewart wrote for the majority in Harris v. McRae (1980), ‘Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life,’” said Harris in testimony. “This legislation seeks to protect women by requiring that a physician be in the same room and in the physical presence of the woman when administering RU486.”

Three advocates of webcam abortion testified, including Carrie Terrell of Whole Women’s Health abortion center in Minneapolis, and Karen Law of Pro-Choice Resources. No mention was made of the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, a hallmark of “pro-choice” arguments.

With the drug having killed dozens of women worldwide and injured more than 2,200 alone in the United States, according to April 2011 FDA figures, pro-life groups have been concerned about Planned Parenthood putting women’s health at risk.

Last year, Wisconsin Right to Life informed LifeNews that Planned Parenthood has begun using the extremely dangerous RU 486 web-cam abortion technique in Minnesota. According to Planned Parenthood Minnesota spokesperson Connie Lewis, the organization began doing webcam abortions at their Rochester facility — making it the first time the abortion business has expanded doing abortions beyond the twin cities area.

RU 486 and its companion drug are administered between the fifth and ninth weeks of pregnancy, after pregnancy has been confirmed and the process typically involves three trips to a doctor. About half of the women abort while at the doctor’s office, with another 26 percent having an abortion within the next 20 hours at any location at home or in public. The remainder either have an abortion in the coming weeks or none at all of the drug fails to work — making it so a surgical abortion is required.

Through April, the FDA reports 2,207 adverse events related to the use of RU 486, including 14 deaths, 612 hospitalizations, 58 ectopic pregnancies, 339 blood transfusions, and 256 cases of infections in the United States alone. A European drug manufacturer has publicly stated that 28 women have died worldwide after using RU 486/mifepristone.