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Bill Expanding Access to Abortion Medication Headed to Governor

As right wing legislatures across the nation continue to restrict access to abortion care, Democrats in the Senate have joined their Democratic colleagues in the House in expanding women’s access to safe and legal medication abortions. THe House passed the bill last month 25-16-1 along party lines, and the same happened in the Senate, with the vote being 14-7.

House Bill 320, sponsored by Rep. Debra HeffernanSen. Kyle Evans Gay and Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, would allow physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe medication for the termination of pregnancy, including Mifeprex, Mifepristone, and Misoprostol. Medical abortions are the most common abortion regimen in the United States and are extremely safe, with less than .31% of patients reporting major complications.

Physician assistants and advanced practice nurses have the training and authority to prescribe nearly all medications, including controlled substances. However, despite their ability to provide safe, low-risk access to medication abortions, current state code allows only qualified physicians to prescribe and administer abortion medication.

Mifepristone, Misoprostol, and Mifeprex are subject to extremely stringent restrictions under the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) issued by the FDA. REMS stipulates that the medication can only be administered in certain settings and must be taken under the supervision of a qualified prescriber. It also requires a provider to become a certified prescriber by completing and sending a Prescriber Agreement, and requires providers to obtain a signed Patient Agreement Form from the patient before dispensing the drugs. These requirements pose serious logistical challenges to individuals in medically underserved and rural communities, where reproductive health clinics are often difficult to find or inaccessible.

House Bill 320 SponsorsYes VotesNo Votes
Heffernan, Longhurst, Minor-Brown, Dorsey Walker, Griffith, K.Johnson, Baumbach, Bentz, Kowalko, Morrison, OsienskiHouse Passes 25-15-1. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Freel Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton Bolden (Absent) Briggs King Collins D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Ramone Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick
Gay, Townsend, S.McBride, Sturgeon, Hansen, Sokola, ParadeeSenate Passes 14-7. Brown Ennis Gay Hansen Lockman Mantzavinos Paradee Pinkney Poore S.McBride Sokola Sturgeon Townsend WalshBonini Hocker Lawson Lopez Pettyjohn Richardson Wilson
Current Status: Sent to the Governor.

“Supporting women means ensuring access to the medical services they need. House Bill 320 will make it easier for the women in our state to overcome the unnecessary restrictions that surround medically-induced abortions,” said Sen. Gay.

“Women deserve access to comprehensive medical care, which includes access to safe abortions,” said Senate Majority Leader Townsend. “In 2017, I sponsored the bill to codify Roe v. Wade in Delaware. This was a major accomplishment in the fight to protect women’s rights, but we always knew there was more to do. House Bill 320 will allow physicians assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe medication to terminate a pregnancy. The right to a safe abortion is meaningless if we cannot guarantee access to everyone.”

“As we face the looming threat of the Supreme Court weakening or even overturning Roe, making it easier for individuals to obtain abortion services is more critical than ever,” said Planned Parenthood of Delaware President and CEO Ruth Lytle-Barnaby. “We are grateful that while many states are cutting off their residents from what has been a constitutional right for nearly half a century, Delaware is fighting for body autonomy thanks to bold leadership from legislators, advocates, and others. Medication abortions are highly safe and very common, and the procedure falls into the scope of practice for physician assistants and advanced practice nurses. In fact, 18 other states allow them to prescribe medication for abortions.”

“I’ve been proud to champion several key measures that protect women’s reproductive rights, including our 2017 legislation that codified the provisions of Roe in state law. Even with these protections in place, many in underserved and rural communities still have difficulty accessing reproductive healthcare due to medically unnecessary restrictions on medication abortion,” said Rep. Heffernan. “It’s time to remove the burdensome regulations that prohibit qualified medical professionals from delivering the type of care that is well within their scope of practice, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with this legislation.”

House Bill 320 now heads to Governor Carney’s desk. 

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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