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Bill requires doctors to follow script on stopping drug-induced abortion

FILE - Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, at the House Building on the state Capitol Complex in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. Stratton makes no secret about where he stands on abortion: The Orem Republican is decidedly pro-life.
FILE - Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, at the House Building on the state Capitol Complex in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. Stratton makes no secret about where he stands on abortion: The Orem Republican is decidedly pro-life.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Keven Stratton makes no secret about where he stands on abortion: The Orem Republican is decidedly pro-life.

Yet Stratton insisted that HB141 is neither pro-life nor pro-choice.

"It's an informed consent (bill)," he told his colleagues in the Utah House of Representatives.

Questions about whether Stratton had inserted his political leanings into the bill went unanswered Friday during debate on the House floor, but the legislation easily advanced with a 56-13 vote. HB141 next goes to the Senate for its consideration.

The bill would mandate that medical professionals inform women who want a drug-induced abortion that it can be stopped if they change their minds after taking the first of two pills required in the procedure.

Stratton said the intent of the bill is to make sure women have all the information needed to make an informed decision about drug-induced abortion.

"I would hope that we can all support the notion of having good, accurate, scientific information as we make those choices," he said.

Whether the scientific information Stratton cited in support of the bill is "good" or "accurate" was the focus of debate on the House floor Friday.

The process for a drug-induced abortion requires a woman to take mifepristone, which blocks progesterone and breaks down the lining of the uterus, followed by misoprostol, which causes the body to undergo changes similar to a miscarriage.

Proponents of the idea say doctors can give a woman the hormone progesterone to stop an abortion after she has taken mifepristone.

Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, said the bill was drafted with the help of physicians who "also feel the language in the bill is medically accurate and reasonable."

However, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no medically accepted evidence that a drug-induced abortion can be interrupted.

During a committee hearing on the bill earlier this month, Salt Lake obstetrician-gynecologist Leah Torres said the proposal is "a violation of medical ethics, doctor-patient relationships and is not based in science."

Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, challenged Stratton's characterization of the bill as "informed consent" because it requires doctors to specifically tell their patients they "may still have a viable pregnancy after taking mifepristone."

That language, Kwan said, "is prescriptive and inconsistent with the intent" of the legislation as described by Stratton.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said stopping a drug-induced abortion "is simply not well-established in science."

"We need to be making good public policy based on facts, based on data," King said.

Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan, spoke in support of the bill, saying she would want to have "all the information" about such a procedure.

"For me, this bill doesn't tell me what I have to do. It simply gives me additional information to use when making that decision," Pulsipher said.

Rep. Scott Chew, R-Jensen, joined the dozen Democrats who voted against the bill.

Arizona passed a similar law in 2015, but it was repealed after Planned Parenthood took the issue to court, arguing that it violates abortion providers' First Amendment rights by forcing them to repeat a state-mandated message against their medical judgment.

Another Utah abortion law passed by the Legislature last year requires doctors to administer anesthesia or painkillers to a fetus before an abortion, based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. Doctors said they didn't know how to comply with the law because it wasn't based on science.

Contributing: Associated Press