Two bills regulating abortion advance in Senate

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee today advanced two bills that would place restrictions on clinics that provide abortions.

One bill that could restrict the use of an abortion pill was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The bill prohibits doctors from monitoring via videoconference women on the early term abortion pill RU-486. Republican supporters say the medication is dangerous enough to require a physician's physical presence. The medication ends pregnancies in the first nine weeks.

But opponents, including DFL Senator Tony Lourey, worry about restricting any kind of telemedicine.

"There's many, many, many really legitimate and incredibly valuable services being offered today to people all across this state that are benefiting tremendously," Lourey said. "So, turning this into an attack on telemedicine is a dangerous thing to be doing."

The Senate committee also approved a bill requiring licenses and random inspections for clinics that provide abortions. Such oversight is already applied to businesses such as game farms and nursing homes, said the bill's sponsor Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan.

"There's licensing and inspections for numerous areas of operations that we have throughout the state," Robling said. "So when I became aware that this was not happening with these clinics I thought it would be appropriate."

Opponents of the bills say they are not needed to ensure patient safety. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed several abortion bills during last year's legislative session.

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