The Legislature's Judiciary Committee will hear bills Wednesday that come from senators with opposite views on abortion. 

Sen. Joni Albrecht's priority bill (LB209) would ensure that women seeking an abortion know the abortion pill RU486 is able to be reversed, but time is of the essence.

Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt's bill (LB503) would eliminate a requirement that a doctor be physically present in the same room when a medical abortion is performed.  

Albrecht's bill would require the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to publish information on its website on finding a qualified health professional who can administer the reversal process.

A California woman, Rebekah Hagan, is expected to speak at the afternoon hearing about her experience six years ago. While sitting in her car outside Planned Parenthood, where she had taken the first of two abortion pills, she decided to seek help in reversing the effects of the mifepristone, a pill that blocks the body's production of progesterone, needed to sustain a pregnancy.

Hagan said she had been told there was no going back, but before she was scheduled to take the second pill of the procedure the next day, she found a pregnancy center that helped her with the abortion pill reversal regimen. She would go on to give birth to a son, Zechariah.

"Zechariah's life was spared, and now I look at both March 13th and March 14th through a lens of hope and mercy, rather than despair," she said on a Facebook posting.

Albrecht said the bill would require telling the patient 24 hours in advance that the process can be reversed, but within a short window of time. It's simply information the patient needs to know, she said. 

Fifty-five percent of abortions in Nebraska are done with RU486 pills, she said. 

"This is a pro-woman, pro-life, pro-choice bill ... because they're going to be told that they have an option, that they have a choice to change their mind," Albrecht said. 

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Hunt said her bill would give many economically disadvantaged women and rural women access to "safe and necessary care."

Under Nebraska law, telemedicine for abortion is prohibited. Telemedicine allows a doctor to prescribe and dispense medication by video or teleconference, she said. 

Hunt said Nebraska has a first-class medical community that daily determines when any health care delivery system is safe, including telemedicine for other areas of care. 

A 2017 study conducted in Iowa from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2015, concluded adverse events were rare with medical abortions and telemedicine did not have clinically significant increased risk of adverse events compared to those with a doctor in the room. 

During the study period, 8,765 telemedicine and 10,405 in-person medical abortions were performed. Forty-nine clinically significant adverse effects were reported, including with 0.18 percent of telemedicine patients and 0.32 percent with patients with a doctor present. 

The study, conducted by Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health research group, and Kate Grindlay, a public health professional, was funded by the Grove Foundation and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.

Grossman disclosed that he served as a consultant in 2016 to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and provided input on the implementation of services providing medical abortion using telemedicine. 

"As more and more women's health care clinics are closing under the weight of government restrictions," Hunt said, "telemedicine is an increasingly crucial option for low-income and rural patients." 

In all medical contexts except abortion, Nebraska authorizes doctors to use telemedicine to provide treatment and prescribe medication, she said. Not offering it for abortion creates an undue burden for Nebraska women. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.


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