Utah committee approves bill that would ban telemed abortions

A legislative committee in Utah has passed a measure that would ban telemed abortions. | Wikimedia Commons/Intel Free Press

A legislative committee in Utah has passed a bill that would ban health care providers from prescribing abortion-causing medications by telephone or computer.

On Monday, the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Standing Committee passed HB 154, an amendment to state rules that cover telehealth services.

The bill, submitted to the committee by Rep. Ken Ivory of Jordan, would prohibit clinicians from issuing "a prescription through electronic prescribing for a drug or treatment to cause an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother would be endangered without an abortion," mHealthIntelligence reported.

"An abortion being something that terminates a life, to do that without ever seeing the patient, without having contact with the patient — as a matter of state policy, we're putting in code that we don't believe that's appropriate," said Ivory during a hearing on the bill this week.

"If you're going to have an abortion, you have to see a doctor. You're not going to have an abortion by e-mail or by remote technology," he added.

While the measure would ban telemed abortions, it still encourages and advances telemedicine in Utah for other medical procedures, according to Church Militant.

The bill has been sent to Utah's Legislature for debate, where it is expected to pass. The Associated Press reported that the Republicans, many of whom oppose abortion rights, currently has a supermajority in the Utah legislature.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 30 percent of abortions in the U.S. are "medical abortions."

The first telemed abortion was performed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Iowa in 2008. The number of sites that are able to offer telemed abortions increased from six to 17 within the first year.

Telemed abortions are currently banned in 19 states, and several others have enacted legislation to curb the practice.

In 2015, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against a law banning telemedicine in cases of abortions.

In December that year, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state of Idaho, claiming that two restrictions on telemed abortions are unconstitutional. Idaho state officials settled the lawsuit last month and agreed to repeal one law and amend another to eliminate restrictions on the practice.