House passes telemedicine abortion ban, expands telehealth elsewhere

By: - December 18, 2020 1:50 am

Abortion rights activists rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Robin Bravender.

The Ohio House passed a bill early Friday morning prohibiting medication abortions via telehealth. Minutes later, they moved to expand telehealth services in other ways.

With a vote of 54-30 along party lines, Senate Bill 260 passed, prohibiting the use of telemedicine in a medication abortion in the state.

The bill prohibits physicians from conducting abortions or providing abortion-inducing drugs to a pregnant woman unless a physician is physically present. A provider could be charged with a fourth-degree felony on the first offense and a third-degree felony for subsequent offenses, according to the bill.

The bill was passed without discussion, after state Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, moved to close debate on the measure before they’d even had any on the House floor.

However, those that wanted to debate the bill weren’t out yet, as the next bill up for a floor vote — Senate Bill 236 — included an amendment folding in another bill which expands telemedicine in other ways.

Speaking in support of increased access to telehealth, several Democrats remarked on the bipartisan support for this bill, but the rejection of the previous bill.

“We have a duty, again, with good access to telemedicine services, to make sure that all women in this state have access to safe and legal health care,” said state Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington. “Reproductive health care, the full spectrum of reproductive health care.”

State Rep. Erica Crawley, D-Columbus, brought up infant and maternal mortality as she has in previous opposition to abortion-related bills. Crawley said she has brought up many bills regarding mortality rates for children and women of color, and has received little interest on the GOP side.

“Women continue to die, infants continue to die…because they go into a health care system that does not treat them fairly and equitably,” Crawley said.

Senate Bill 260 passed the Ohio Senate earlier this year, but hadn’t seen a House committee until one week ago. The measure was passed in the House Health Committee earlier this week after only two hearings before the body.

Senate Bill 236, which included the telemedicine expansion (with the exception of abortions) passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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