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Legislation would add stipulations to taking abortion-inducing drugs

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 2, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Updated Jan. 2, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.


Pregnant women in the Crossroads seeking an abortion may encounter stricter guidelines from their doctors if a proposed bill is passed in the Texas Legislature.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, plans to introduce legislation that would require what some call more rigid protocols for physicians administering abortion-inducing drugs, such as mifepristone, known formerly as RU-486, to pregnant women.

Patrick's SB 97 would require, among other stipulations, that physicians be required to personally administer all doses of the medication to the pregnant women, even if they occur on multiple days.

The bill also requires physicians to examine the pregnant woman and chart the gestational age and intrauterine location of the pregnancy before administering the drug, as well as execute an emergency plan for unforeseen medical problems that may arise while the woman is on the medication.

Patrick's bill also requires the pregnant woman's doctor to schedule a follow-up visit within 14 days of administering the drug whereby the doctor must determine that the pregnancy is terminated. If any drug-related emergencies occur, the bill also requires physicians to report the events within three days to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or face possible disciplinary action through the Texas Medical Board.

Opponents of the bill argue the legislation would drive up the cost of medical services, impress additional costs for the drugs and create other economic disadvantages for low-income women who may live in areas such as Victoria, where the nearest clinics to obtain abortion-related medical services is more than an hour away.

Dr. Michael Klein, a Victoria general practitioner, supports Patrick's bill and the increase in stipulations it would require.

"It's not making it more challenging, it's protecting the patient," Klein said. "There's issues with any of this stuff. It's not just like you're having a bowel movement. You're passing something out of a uterus."

Klein said the bill is valid because any medication that terminates a pregnancy warrants additional supervision and protocols from physicians - not only to make sure the doctors uphold their Hippocratic Oaths to "do no harm," but also to make sure the patient is protected in emergency situations.

"The problem is that it kills the baby, and the person still has to deliver the baby. That's what you need the doctor for, to make sure it's all gone," he said, mentioning his belief that administering the pregnancy-terminating drugs goes against the Hippocratic Oath.

"Doctors are sworn not to do any harm. How can you argue that this wouldn't cause harm?" he said. "It may not violate the mother, but it harms the baby. If you give that, somebody is going to die. Why wouldn't you want to have a doctor around?"

St. Mary's Church, the Rev. Dan Morales, also said he supports the legislation.

"Any legislation that would help to further limit or abolish abortion, I'm all for it," Morales said. "It sounds like it's taken from the perspective of protecting the woman, and that in and of itself is a good thing. In my opinion, the legislation doesn't go far enough. It's better than no regulation."

Morales said he is often confronted with questions about the government's attempts to legislate moral issues, such as abortion. But he said the church supports any issues that protect mankind from inception to death.

"Ideally, you want to change people's hearts" without referring to the government. "But we do legislate issues on morality, such as violence against one another and killing," he said. "Many of our laws do stand in defense of life and if all of our laws would stand in support of life from conception to its natural end of life, that would be ideal."

Dr. John McNeill, a Victoria internist and owner of Twin Fountains medical clinic, said many Victoria physicians do not prescribe the abortion-inducing drugs, or perform abortions, they may not be as familiar with the side effects of the drugs.

"I've only had one patient request it, and I referred her to an OB-GYN. I learned later she was referred out of town because they didn't provide the service here," McNeill said.

The bill, McNeill said, was unnecessary legislation authored by a senator with the intention of making it more difficult for women to get an abortion.

"Something like this is going to have to increase costs, especially if it requires a second physician to be present" to administer the drug, he said. "It's not a government issue. It's an issue between the woman and her doctor, and she needs to look at all the options."

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