Idaho legislators have introduced a bill that would effectively ban the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortions to women who have limited access to reproductive health care.
The house state affairs committee voted Thursday to introduce the bill, HB 88, titled the “Physician Physical Presence and Women Protection Act.” The committee introduced the bill after a party line 13-4 vote, with all four of the committee’s Democratic representatives voting no.
The bill would ban physicians from dispensing, administering, or prescribing medication to terminate a pregnancy, unless they have “examined in person” the pregnant person seeking an abortion, effectively banning the use of telemedicine for abortion care in the state.
Abortion providers use telemedicine to offer women who do not live near a reproductive health-care provider, many of them in rural areas, with access to abortion care. At a local health clinic, where the medication is dispensed, a patient will sit with a nurse while talking with her doctor via video conferencing tools.
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Telemedicine abortion care is only available in Iowa and Minnesota, and 16 states have passed laws banning the practice. Anti-choice lawmakers around the country have introduced several bills over the past few years to end telemedicine abortion.
The Idaho anti-telemedicine bill would add other restrictions on medication abortion, including complying with the state’s forced counseling law and requiring that physicians attempt to schedule a follow-up visit.
“Idaho law has been drafted with a bias toward surgical abortions in the state. Not enough attention has been paid to the use of abortion-causing drugs. That’s a real problem,” David Ripley, executive director of the anti-choice group Idaho Chooses Life, said during the introduction hearing, reported the Associated Press.
Kathy Griesmyer, public policy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, said the legislation interjects lawmakers into a woman’s private medical decisions. “The bill is being introduced as a way to create one more barrier or obstacle for a woman to face to get an abortion,” Griesmyer said, according to the AP.
A similar bill was introduced in Idaho in 2013.
Republicans control significant majorities in both of the state’s legislative bodies. The GOP holds a 28-7 majority in the state senate and a 56-16 majority in the house. Gov. Butch Otter (R) has supported anti-choice legislation, including signing a bill to ban abortion at 20 weeks. That bill was later struck down by a federal court as unconstitutional.
The new bill awaits a hearing that will likely be schedule in the next few weeks.