The Kansas House of Representatives gave first-round approval on Monday to a bill that would require health care providers to notify women that certain abortions are “reversible.”
Pro-choice advocates vehemently oppose the bill, saying the “reversal” method is scientifically unproven and highly controversial in medical circles. Pro-life supporters call it a viable option, and say women should be aware of their choices.
After a final vote tomorrow, the bill is expected to head to the Senate.
Medical, or non-surgical, abortions involve a sequence of two pills, the first being Mifepristone, better-known as RU-486. House Bill 2274 would require a notice to patients that an abortion could be stopped if a doctor intervenes before the second dose of medication, known as Misoprostol.
The bill claims “it may be possible to reverse its intended effect if the second pill or tablet has not been taken or administered. If you change your mind and wish to try to continue the pregnancy, you can get immediate help by accessing available resources.”
Under the proposed law, any private office, freestanding surgical outpatient clinic, hospital or other facility that fails to post a sign would be subject to a $10,000 fine. If a clinic administers a medical abortion without notifying the patient of the chance of reversal, the woman, the father of the unborn child, or the grandparent of a minor undergoing the abortion, could sue for damages.
House members debated the bill for nearly two hours on Monday before passing it on a voice vote.
“I want you to understand clearly this is a pro-women’s health bill, said Rep. John Eplee, R-Atchison, who first introduced the measure in committee. “We’re not putting a gun to their head, we’re not forcing them to have this procedure. We’re giving them an option.”
The first pill in a medical abortion stops the pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. The second makes the uterus contract to complete the abortion, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). In 2015, 24.6 percent of all abortions were early medical abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The intended “reversal” is done by administering a dose of progesterone after the patient has taken the RU-486. Eplee, a physician, defended the use of progesterone, saying it’s commonly used to prevent miscarriage. But medical organizations like ACOG say the practice is not supported by science.
“Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards,” ACOG says in a 2017 statement about the practice. “Unfounded legislative mandates represent dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.”
Democrats in the House hit on this point repeatedly Monday. Rep. Eileen Horn, D-Lawrence, said the bill requires doctors to administer advice they know to be “inaccurate and not standard practice.”
“I think this really inserts politics into a private discussion between physician and patients and complicates that and interferes with that relationship,” Horn said.
A major concern for lawmakers was whether or not abortion reversal is safe. There have been studies, but ACOG says they don’t meet scientific standards and lack control groups and supervision by an institutional review board.
“Why would we willfully pass a bill this morning when we don’t have substantial studies or proof that this would be safe for our patients?” said Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence. “If we’re going to pass a bill, we should be positive that this is safe.”
Democrats proposed six amendments, including one by Horn to require notification to include the position of the ACOG, and inform patients that “reversal” isn’t a proven medical practice.
“We just can’t start providing notice for all the uses of medication and medicines,” Eplee said in opposition to the amendment. “It would be insanity.”
Eplee, citing a study out of California and his own anecdotal experience, said the use of progesterone is safe and called the amendment “unnecessary.”
Horn’s amendment failed, 41 to 83, along with the other five amendments.
Other states, including Arkansas, South Dakota, Utah and Idaho, already require notification of the reversal option. At least North Dakota and Nebraska have introduced abortion reversal bills.
Rachel Sweet, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the organization will continue to oppose the bill as it moves forward.
“The amendments we heard today reflect some concerns a lot of members in the house have about the contents of the bill,” Sweet said. “I think it became clear that its very difficult to have a constructive conversation on the floor of the house about abortion.”
In a statement, Kansans for Life praised lawmakers for passing a bill that “trusts women.”
“We applaud the Kansas House for passing the Abortion Pill Reversal Information bill by trusting women who regret taking the first abortion pill and want to save their baby,” the statement said.