Tampa Bay Times

GOP-led states target abortion medication­s

- BY DAVID CRARY AND IRIS SAMUELS

About 40 percent of all abortions in the U.S. are now done through medication — rather than surgery — and that option has become all the more pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abortion rights advocates say the pandemic has demonstrat­ed the value of medical care provided virtually, including the privacy and convenienc­e of abortions taking place in a woman’s home, instead of a clinic. Abortion opponents, worried the method will become increasing­ly prevalent, are pushing legislatio­n in several Republican-led states to restrict it and in some cases, ban providers from prescribin­g abortion medication via telemedici­ne.

Ohio enacted a ban this year, proposing felony charges for doctors who violate it. The law was set to take effect next week, but a judge has temporaril­y blocked it in response to a Planned Parenthood lawsuit.

In Montana, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte is expected to sign a ban on telemedici­ne abortions. The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Sharon Greef, has called medication abortions “the Wild West of the abortion industry” and says the drugs should be taken under close supervisio­n of medical profession­als, “not as part of a do-it-yourself abortion far from a clinic or hospital.”

Opponents of the bans say telemedici­ne abortions are safe, and outlawing them would have a disproport­ionate effect on rural residents who face long drives to the nearest abortion clinic.

“When we look at what state legislatur­es are doing, it becomes clear there’s no medical basis for these restrictio­ns,” said Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel for state policy and advocacy with the Center for Reproducti­ve Rights. “They’re only meant to make it more difficult to access this incredibly safe medication and sow doubt into the relationsh­ip between patients and providers.”

Other legislatio­n has sought to outlaw delivery of abortion pills by mail, shorten the 10-week window in which the method is allowed and require doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions that the process can be reversed midway through, a claim critics say is not backed by science.

It’s part of a broader wave of anti-abortion measures numerous states are considerin­g this year, including some that would ban nearly all abortions. The bills’ supporters hope the U.S. Supreme Court, now with a 6-3 conservati­ve majority, might be open to overturnin­g or weakening the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that establishe­d the nationwide right to end pregnancie­s.

 ?? CHARLIE NEIBERGALL | Associated Press ?? Medication­s like RU-486 are estimated to be used for about 40 percent of all U.S. abortions.
CHARLIE NEIBERGALL | Associated Press Medication­s like RU-486 are estimated to be used for about 40 percent of all U.S. abortions.

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