New Indiana Bill Would Extend Right to Deny ‘Abortion Drugs’

Obtaining medication abortion in the United States involves undergoing a lengthly, medically unnecessary and ridiculous process. Due to overregulation of RU-486, it’s nearly impossible to obtain the pill outside of an abortion clinic — and almost no doctors, aside from abortion providers, are able to simply write a patient prescription to be filled at a pharmacy.

Despite this fact, many red states are focused on finding ways to place even more roadblocks between a patient seeking a non-invasive medication termination — and their efforts could be preventing other people from getting the health care services they need, too.

According to CBS News, a new bill in Indiana is expanding the right to refuse to offer “abortion drugs” to medical providers beyond the current list of doctors and hospital employees, which would include nurses, physicians assistants and pharmacists.

Because RU-486 can’t be prescribed by most doctors, there’s no reason that a pharmacist should need added protections to exempt them from providing “abortion drugs.” In fact, the entire list of newly allowed “conscience objectors” are unlikely to ever have an opportunity to interact with the abortion medication known as RU-486.

Hospitals rarely provide medication abortions. Pharmacists don’t have it in stock because of REMS protocols restricting the drug. And physician’s assistants wouldn’t come into contact with RU-486, either — unless they actually worked inside an abortion clinic, in which case it seems pretty likely that they wouldn’t object.

What this proposed legislation could do, however, is open a whole new level of protections to people who might consider other drugs to be “abortion drugs” — and let their beliefs trump the needs of those who require medications.

According to the Indiana Lawyer:

Opponents of this bill are concerned it could deny women access to treatments for non-abortion medical issues on the basis that a pharmacist suspects the drugs will be used to terminate a pregnancy. Also, some see the possibility the bill could be laying the groundwork for a broader attack, in the future, on access to birth control.

Nurses, physicians assistants and pharmacists aren’t likely to have any interaction with what we typically think of as abortion drugs, like RU-486. But nurses and PAs are very likely to be in charge of providing emergency contraception at hospitals — a real issue should sexual assault survivors come into the ER seeking the drug to prevent a pregnancy.

And a number of religious hospitals are denying emergency contraception to those seeking care, even though it’s offered in most emergency rooms as part of a general intake for a rape kit.

Pharmacists, too, could use the proposed law to block people from accessing emergency contraception — or even regular birth control pills — by claiming that they are “abortion drugs.” But even more dangerously, they could also deny very necessary medications to patients out of a concern that they’re related to an abortion. This could endanger any female-presenting person seeking to fill a prescription.

Cytotec, commonly offered to treat ulcers, can also be used off-label for terminating a pregnancy. This new bill could easily protect pharmacists from filling Cytotec prescriptions, assuming anyone of a certain age or apparent gender is secretly taking it for its off-label use.

It could also block those who are suffering from severe bleeding after a miscarriage or childbirth from obtaining methergine, which helps stop excessive bleeding. In fact, this situation already occurred in Idaho, where a pharmacist refused a prescription and refused to refer it to another pharmacist or pharmacy, threatening the patient’s life.

The same should be expected for Indiana’s law, too. Republican Sen. Liz Brown, one of the bill’s sponsors, told reporters that the medical professionals who would object to filling prescriptions would be under no obligation to let patients know about their own opinions about abortion, claiming that it is “the patient’s responsibility to ask.”

But as anyone who has ever tried to fill a prescription knows, insurance providers often make patients go to certain pharmacies, and require in-network hospitals in order to cover emergency care. For far too many patients, asking about a medical professional’s religious beliefs prior to using the services is completely impossible.

Republican politicians say they will attempt to clarify some of these issues in a future amendment before the bill has a second reading. But will that amendment make the bill less overreaching in the end, or just define exactly how much additional power religious medical providers will be holding over the patients who desperately need their services?

Photo Credit: Robin Marty/Flickr

43 comments

Sophie A
Sophie Ayesterday

Thank you for sharing

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Chad Anderson
Chad Ayesterday

Thank you.

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Karen H
Karen H5 days ago

If Indiana wants to stop abortions, the first step is giving every male over age 13 a vasectomy. Next is death penalty for rapists. Then denying men access to erectile dysfunction drugs and jail sentence for any male engaging in sex without a condom. Sorry - do these "solutions" sound extreme? Any more extreme than what Indiana's proposing?

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Denise D
Denise D6 days ago

Wow! Too bad too many lawmakers (ha ha) spend soooo much time coming up with such pap, and not enough time coming up with common sense ways to get the things done that REALLY need legislating: roads, equality, worker's rights, human rights, and voter's rights, enewable energy just to name a few, and STAY OUT OF WOMEN'S PRIVATE LIVES. This should be between a woman and her doctors ONLY!

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Lisa b
Lisa b6 days ago

oh, Pence's state. No wonder you're azz-backwards and afraid of women and vaginas.

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Barbara V
Barbara V7 days ago

I was born and raised in that State. Now i give it the finger. Stupid asses.

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Lisa M
Lisa M8 days ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M8 days ago

Noted.

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill8 days ago

wow

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Joanna P
Joanna P8 days ago

Nobody really wants abortion, it does mean destroying a life. But until such time as pregnancy prevention is properly understood and available, abortion should not be banned. In some cases it is the best course of action.

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