LITTLE ROCK — State lawmakers on Thursday filed matching House and Senate bills that would require a doctor to be physically present when a chemical abortion is performed.

LITTLE ROCK — State lawmakers on Thursday filed matching House and Senate bills that would require a doctor to be physically present when a chemical abortion is performed.


Senate Bill 53 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and House Bill 1076 by Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, would require that when mifepristone, also known as RU-486, or another drug is used to induce an abortion, the doctor who prescribed, dispensed or otherwise provided the drug must be physically present in the room.


The measure is aimed at prohibiting abortions conducted via telemedicine, or "webcam abortions" as some call them.


The proposal also would require the doctor to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the patient returns 12 to 18 days later for a follow-up visit.


A doctor who violates the measure would lose his or her medical license and could be subject to civil action for actual and punitive damages. A woman who receives a chemical abortion without a doctor present would not be subject to any penalty.


Irvin, who filed a similar bill in 2013, said Thursday, "Whether it’s a surgical abortion or a chemical abortion, I think it’s important for the safety of the health of the mother to make sure that it’s done in the presence of a physician."


She said the bill would not run afoul of U.S. Supreme Court rulings such as Roe v. Wade that have upheld the constitutional right to an abortion.


"The Supreme Court also made the ruling that states can determine parameters for abortion, and we’re just exercising that Supreme Court decision," she said.


Angie Remington, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said Planned Parenthood does not currently offer chemical abortions via telemedicine in Arkansas. She also said the organization opposes efforts to limit access to the practice, which it does provide in other states.


"At Planned Parenthood we believe a woman should be trusted to make her own medical decisions along with her physician, and we believe that professional medical associations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has spoken out against political interference such as this, should be making decisions about health care, not politicians," she said.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday he had not yet read the measure.


"Certainly I’m pro-life and so we’ll look at it very favorably, but I want to be able to look at that and discuss that with Sen. Irvin," he said.


In 2103, the Legislature approved a law banning most abortions at 12 weeks or later into a pregnancy, one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, and overrode a veto of the measure by then-Gov. Mike Beebe. A federal judge struck down most of the law in March, a ruling that the state is appealing.