Committee moves anti-abortion telemedicine bill forward amid opponents’ pleas for rejection

The Rev. Terry Williams

Despite nurses, pastors, and pro-choice advocates urging rejection before the Wednesday vote, a Senate committee approved a bill to bar the use of telemedicine for abortion-related care.

The Senate Health, Human Services, and Medicaid Committee moved Senate Bill 260 forward to the full Senate after a third hearing in which a roomful of Ohioans testified.

The bill limits the use of telemedicine, prohibiting the use of it for medication abortions, in which a pill is taken to end pregnancy, and a second pill is taken within two days to complete the abortion process.

Medical professionals, religious representatives, and pro-choice advocates were all in attendance as a last-ditch effort to get the committee to reject the measure.

“The advent of telemedicine has been a Godsend,” said the Rev. Terry Williams, a Ross County resident representing the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Williams, and many others who spoke on Wednesday, said the bill would have “dangerous” consequences and the focus of the bill is not protecting the safety of patients.

“This bill would actually put doctors farther away from patients,” Williams said.

The measure is particularly hard on those in rural and impoverished areas, opponents told the committee. McCray Powell spoke on behalf of residents like him in Southeastern Ohio, a region already struggling with access to funding and opportunities.

“We’ve already had our resources stolen and our bodies broken by the mines and factories that left with their profits, leaving behind so much poverty and despair,” Powell said. “The state taking away our right to our own bodies will not be tolerated.”

The legal counsel for conservative religious advocacy group Citizens for Community Values said the bill was a way to protect victims of sex trafficking who may be coerced into abortions.

“Abortion often enables traffickers to keep their abuse, sexual misuse, and commoditization of these girls a secret,” Rachel Citak said.

Before the vote, legislators had their say, with Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood,  saying the decision should come down to the woman or girl involved, and Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, addressing her comments toward a represented from the ACLU supporting the bill.

“I look forward to the day when the ACLU will come in here and advocate for the civil liberties of all humans, born and unborn,” Roegner said.

The representative from the ACLU, chief lobbyist Gary Daniels, said the civil rights organization “would be willing to work with (Roegner) on, for instance, the abolishment of the death penalty in Ohio so that everybody who considers themselves pro-life could enjoy the whole spectrum of that.”

The bill now goes to the full Senate for a review.