A bill to increase regulation of Indiana's abortion clinics moved forward Wednesday after a Senate panel removed contested provisions that would have required all clinics to meet current building code standards and have annual inspections.
The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee voted 8-2 in favor of the bill that would now require abortion providers to establish a 24/7 phone line for patients to call in case of questions or complications. The measure also requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital or to have a written agreement with another physician with those privileges. They also must give patients the hospital contact information before the procedure.
Two Democrats on the panel, Sens. Jean Breaux of Indianapolis and Frank Mrvan of Hammond, supported what Breaux called a "much better bill." Democratic Sens. Mark Stoops of Bloomington and Greg Taylor of Indianapolis were the lone holdouts.
Taylor questioned the need for abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. Almost all abortions in Indiana in 2012 were performed within the first trimester, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Planned Parenthood reports less than 0.1 percent of abortions lead to hospitalization.
"I don't understand how this bill has been made better," Taylor said. "Unless somebody can show me some evidence that there's been an issue and how ... requiring a doctor and a backup physician to have admitting privileges makes it safer, I'm going to continue to vote 'no' on this issue."
The changes to the bill came after opponents argued that annual inspections weren't necessary because the state already inspects abortion facilities every other year and can do so more frequently if necessary.
They also contended that requiring clinics to adhere to current building codes could require costly and unnecessary renovations. State law currently exempts centers built after July 1, 2006 from those standards.
Liz Carroll, vice president of patient services at the Indiana chapter, praised the provision calling for the 24/7 phone line, noting that the four Indiana Planned Parenthood clinics that offer the procedure already provide that service.
"With every medical procedure there's a possibility of complications, and we absolutely agree with the provision that requires us to give the patient an emergency phone number 18 hours in advance of the procedure," she said.
The committee also changed language in another bill that would examine whether people are coerced into having abortions to make it more neutral. The revised bill calls for a study of whether people are pressured on either side of the abortion debate. The committee approved the bill, 9-1.
The bills will now go to the full Senate, where they could face additional changes.
"All these bills are working in action all the time," said bill co-author Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn. "They change colors on a daily basis."
Author: SUMMER BALLENTINE, Associated Press