Under the FDA guidelines, doctors must prescribe the abortion pill before it can be sent through the mail, but an in-person visit is not required.
SB 456 would write into law that doctors “may” tell their patients that their abortion could be reversed if they change their mind after taking the abortion pill. An earlier version of the bill would have required doctors to tell patients abortions could be reversed.
Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Ben Watson, a Savannah Republican and physician, limited public commenters to two minutes and reserved the last 10 minutes of the hearing for questions from committee members.
Watson accepted an amendment from Cornelia Republican state Sen. Bo Hatchett to name the legislation the Women’s Health and Safety Act.
State Sen. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat and anesthesiologist, cited medical groups, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that have said there is no science that supports the notion that a drug-induced abortion can be reversed. She said she found the name of the bill ironic.
“In the interest of promoting women’s health and safety, we should not be codifying pseudoscience into law,” she said. “And we should not be overseeing or stipulating how physicians and caretakers should best take care of their patients.”
Anti-abortion groups across the country have pushed state legislatures to require abortion providers to tell patients that abortions done through medication are reversible, but courts in states such as Tennessee and Indiana have ruled the efforts violate doctors’ First Amendment rights. Six states, including Oklahoma and Texas, passed laws that ban the mailing of the abortion pill.
Katie Glenn, a lobbyist with Washington-based Americans United for Life, said the proposed legislation puts safeguards in place to make sure pregnant women seeking an abortion are safe.
“There are abortionists who are willing to mail out pills without ever seeing a patient in person or even on video,” Glenn said. “SB 456 will prevent at-home, pill-by-mail DIY abortions that leave women to fend for themselves if medical complications arise.”
First approved by the FDA in 2000, “medication abortion” has increasingly become the preferred method for terminating a pregnancy up until 10 weeks.
Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, questioned the need for the legislation after the General Assembly passed a law that bans most abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy. The law was put on hold by the courts.
“This bill is nothing but a performative bill in the middle of an election year,” Fox said. “Abortion has already been decided in this state.”
Want more politics news? Get the latest news and in-depth coverage from the Georgia Legislature, political campaigns, and state issues on ajc.com/politics.