The Ohio Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that prohibits physicians from using telemedicine in medication abortions. The bill now moves on to the Ohio House, where it is expected to pass.
A medication abortion includes two different medicines, mifepristone and misoprostol. The U.S. Food and Drug (FDA) Administration currently prohibits direct-to-patient access to mifepristone, which is subject to a stringent FDA-imposed Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). As a result, mifepristone can only be given to patients under the supervision of a healthcare provider, and only a select few providers can prescribe it. While mifepristone must be taken in a physician’s office, the physician does not have to be present and can remote in to examine the patient and then instruct. As a result, telemedicine is often used to prescribe mifepristone and monitor patients in rural areas where access to physicians is difficult.
Current law in Ohio requires women to visit a clinic, in-person, for counseling and an ultrasound 24 hours ahead of a medically induced abortion. Then, due to the restrictions for mifepristone by the FDA, the woman must return to their physician for the first drug. Presently, an Ohio physician may prescribe the abortion medication (misoprostol) through an online connection and monitor the woman from home.
Under the new bill, the use of telemedicine for these medication abortions will be prohibited entirely and have criminal consequences. As the analysis of the bill states, the bill would prevent “a physician from personally furnishing or providing an abortion-inducing drug to a woman unless the physician is physically present where and when the initial dose of the drug is consumed.”
Roughly 20 states ban the use of telemedicine in abortions.