Telemedicine Abortion Ban Sunset Repealer
S.B. 1198 – Senator Tom Casperson
S.B. 1198 is currently on the House floor awaiting final passage. The telemedicine abortion ban sunset repealer was voted out of the House Health Policy Committee on December 4, 2018 along party lines with a vote of 9-5. On November 29, 2018 the full Senate approved the bill along mostly party lines and a vote of 25-12 with one excused. The bill was amended on the floor to clean up a technical difficulty with the wording. On November 27, 2018 the Senate Health Policy Committee voted the bill out along party lines. Right to Life of Michigan presented testimony in support of the bill. S.B. 1198 was introduced by Senator Casperson on November 8, 2018.
S.B. 1198 removes a sunset provision on the telemedicine abortion ban. The bill will remove the “sunset” and allow the ban to remain in place indefinitely. If the bill is not passed, the ban on telemedicine abortions will lift or sunset, and they will no longer be illegal in the state.
Medical abortions are on the rise throughout the state and the country. Last year chemical abortions accounted for 9,422 abortions or 35% of all the abortions in the state. Women who use the abortion pill (not to be confused with the morning after pill – these are two very different drugs) can expect to have a “failure” between 2 and 7% depending on the gestational age of the baby and will need follow-up care to complete the abortion. In 2016, the FDA approved changes to the abortion pill which allows it to be used up to 10 weeks gestation; the higher the gestational age of the baby, the more likely a complication or abortion “failure” will take place.
Telemedicine places a barrier between women and follow-up care because the doctor could be hundreds of miles away leaving the woman vulnerable. With between 188 – 659 women potentially needing follow-up care, banning telemedicine abortions is common sense and a safety issue. With increased gestational age limits for the abortion pill and the potential for more follow-up care, the telemedicine abortion ban is needed now more than ever.
In 2012, Michigan placed a preemptive ban on telemedicine abortions in the state. At that time, the Governor asked that the ban sunset or lift at the end of his term. The ban will expire on December 31, 2018 unless we repeal the sunset. The FDA approved Mifeprex, the abortion pill, for use in the U.S. in 2000 and placed heightened safety requirements on the drug called a REMS or Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. This REMS states that Mifeprex must only be dispensed in a clinic, hospital or medical office by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber. This provision has been in place and continues to be the FDA requirement for the abortion pill.
The REMS precludes the use of telemedicine for medical abortions. However, several groups including the manufacturer, Danco Pharmaceuticals, Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation wanted the REMS removed and petitioned the FDA to remove it. In 2016, the FDA evaluated clinical trial data, peer-reviewed studies and took input from experts in the field and concluded that the REMS is still necessary and that the abortion pill must only be distributed by the provider in the clinic.