Webcam Abortion Ban/RU-486 Regulation

S.B. 420 - Sen. Tom Casperson
H.B. 4688 - Rep. Anthony Forlini

Current Status
H.B. 4688 was introduced on May 31, 2011 and referred to the House Committee on Health Policy. S.B. 420 was introduced on June 8, 2011 and referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy.

The content of S.B. 420/H.B. 4688 was incorporated into H.B. 5711, the prolife omnibus bill (aka "the Prolife Bus") in May 2012. The House and Senate acted on, and ultimately passed H.B. 5711 in place of S.B. 420/H.B. 4688. The provision requiring that abortionists follow the FDA guidelines when administering RU-486 was removed from H.B. 5711 by the Senate. Evidence was brought forth showing the FDA guidelines were already being superceded by newer, safer practice guidelines which abortionists would be held liable for if they failed to follow. Also in early December 2012 as H.B. 5711 was being debated, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a similar law passed in that state.

At Gov. Snyder's insistence, a "sunset" provision was added to the Webcam abortion ban, making the law effective until December 31, 2018. A review of the law in 2018 will determine if it is still necessary, as the practice had not been known to occur in Michigan at the time the ban was passed. If the ban is still advisable based on practices in the abortion industry, a bill to remove the sunset provision and make the ban permanent would have to be passed.

With the signing of H.B. 5711 into law by Gov. Snyder on December 28, 2012, the Webcam abortion ban is part of Public Act 499 of 2012, making passage of S.B. 420 or H.B. 4688 unnecessary.

This legislation would prohibit the Planned Parenthood practice of prescribing and dispensing abortion drugs to women via Internet webcam. It requires that the prescribing physician perform a physical examination of the woman seeking an abortion. The prescribing physician then must be physically present when the abortion drugs are dispensed, directly supervising the provision of the drugs.

In addition, the bill will prohibit dangerous off-label prescribing of RU-486 and Ella (a morning-after pill that is a chemical cousin of RU-486). The physician will be required to follow the complete Food and Drug Administration regimen for prescription, administration, and follow-up care. The physician must give the woman any FDA Medication Guides, which detail potential complications, and have her sign FDA Patient Agreement forms to verify that she understands the risks.

In 2008, Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa began prescribing and dispensing RU-486 without the prescribing doctor ever physically examining the woman. A doctor remotely confirms pregnancy and prescribes RU-486 via Internet webcam. This "patient consultation" is held with the woman sitting in front of a computer monitor in a Planned Parenthood clinic hundreds of miles away. After the "patient consultation," the doctor uses a remote control switch to open a drawer at the Planned Parenthood clinic, which contains the abortion-inducing drug. The woman takes the drug, and receives no direct follow-up care from the doctor.

This practice is very lucrative for Planned Parenthood. Their president has announced plans to expand it from Iowa to other states. This legislation would prevent the practice from moving into Michigan. Nebraska has already signed a similar measure into law.

In addition to preventing webcam abortions in Michigan, the legislation will require that abortion doctors adhere to FDA protocols for prescribing and administering RU-486 and Ella. The FDA has confirmed 8 deaths following the use of RU-486, and in 7 of those cases the abortion clinics did not follow the FDA-approved regimen when giving the drug. An Ohio law mandating that the FDA protocol be followed has survived court challenge at the state and federal level.

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