An Oklahoma house committee passed two bills Tuesday that would further restrict access to safe, legal abortion in the state.
HB 2418 would change the state’s requirements for doctors who perform abortions, requiring them to have “clinical privileges at a hospital which offers obstetrical or gynecological care that is located within 30 miles of the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.”
Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow), the sponsor of the bill, told the Associated press that the bill is about safety. ”A person can hemorrhage to death very quickly. If you’re dealing with minutes to save somebody you better have a backup plan in place,” he said.
American Civil Liberties Union Director Ryan Kiesel told the AP that the bill is not about women’s health, but rather about politics. “We’re being given a rationale that’s grounded in providing a safe atmosphere for Oklahoma’s women, but at the end of the day that’s just smoke and mirrors,” he said.
Ritze cited HB 2, the Texas law requiring admitting privileges for doctors who provide abortions, as an influence for his bill. Currently, that provision of the Texas law is in the middle of litigation, pending a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
HB 2684 would update restrictions on medication abortions that were originally passed in 2011, by removing the language that created that effective ban. During the hearing on the bill, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Randy Grau (R-Edmond), said HB 2684 is essentially the follow-up to HB 1970, the 2011 law, and is meant to “[address] the concerns of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.”
Rep. Jeannie McDaniel (D-Tulsa) spoke against to HB 2684, reading a statement from the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposing the restrictions because there is “no medical basis for requiring abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges.”
During debate, McDaniel asked Grau if he had spoken with ACOG about the group’s concerns with the legislation. Should OB-GYNs “not have a voice and discuss this with you,” she asked. Grau confirmed that he had not spoken with ACOG, but he said he is aware of the group’s position. “The fact of the matter is, in order to protect patients we need to make sure that the physicians, members of ACOG or not, are following the FDA protocol,” said Grau.
According to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute, the medication abortion regimen specified by the Food and Drug Administration is “outdated.” Requiring stringent adherence the FDA-approved guidelines “prohibits alternative, evidence-based protocols in wide use for at least the past decade” and prevents providers from “engaging in practices that are accepted as mainstream in other medical specialties.”
The bills are now likely to proceed to the house for a floor vote.