By MELINDA DESLATTE / Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Anti-abortion advocates are seeking new restrictions on the procedure in Louisiana to ban doctors from remotely administering the abortion pill via a video hookup, a process criticized as "telemedicine abortions" or "webcam abortions."
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee backed the prohibition Wednesday without objection, sending the bill to the Senate floor for debate.
Sen. Fred Mills, sponsor of the measure, said a doctor should be present in the room to administer the medication as a safety precaution, rather than authorizing the use of it from a computer screen.
"We feel this bill is very appropriate for the health, welfare and safety of the pregnant lady," said Mills, R-Breaux Bridge.
Initially known as RU-486, the abortion pill was approved for use in the United States in 2000 as an alternative to a surgical abortion. The pill is marketed as Mifeprex and works during the first nine weeks of pregnancy.
Mifeprex causes an embryo to detach from the uterine wall, and a second pill taken two days later causes contractions and pushes the embryo out of the uterus.
Remote administration of the abortion pill has been tried in states to give access to women in rural areas where there aren't abortion clinics.
Dorinda Bordlee, an anti-abortion attorney who testified in favor of Mill's proposal, said the bill protects women's health, to ensure they have proper medical attention if they encounter complications.
"This is a dangerous situation for women," she said.
Bordlee said nine other states have passed similar restrictions, and Mills said FDA guidelines for the abortion pill recommend having a physician in attendance.
The legislation would require a doctor who prescribes the abortion pill to be in the same room and "in the physical presence of the pregnant woman when the drug or chemical is initially administered."
It also would add new requirements for doctors who perform abortions, requiring them to be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and would increase the fines available to the state health department for sanctioning abortion clinics for violations of regulations.
The measure was approved without objection and heads to the full Senate for debate.
Melissa Flournoy, the state director for Planned Parenthood, said the organization didn't oppose Mills' bill.
Louisiana is one of the nation's most anti-abortion states, enacting a series of restrictions over the years, including several that have been overturned in courts. Lawmakers also have placed language in statute to explain the state only allows abortion procedures because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they are legal.