JEFFERSON CITY — Numerous messages are urging Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to sign legislation that would require doctors be in the room for the initial dose of a drug used in medical abortions.
Supporters contend the requirement is necessary to protect women's health and safety and to ensure abortions cannot begin to be performed by "telemedicine." Opponents say the current process is safe, and that the legislation seems to be more of an attempt to restrict the availability of abortion services.
Women seeking a medical abortion now take a drug at the clinic. Women are given a dose of another medication to take at home, 24 to 48 hours later. Patients return for a follow-up visit about two weeks later. Under the legislation, the physician prescribing or dispensing an abortion-inducing drug would need to be present for the initial dose.
Scott Holste, a spokesman for Nixon, said the governor's office has received more than 300 online messages about the legislation since the start of the legislative session in January and nearly 200 phone calls from January through the first week of June.
People encouraging him to sign the measure significantly outnumbered those urging him to veto in a sample of about 100 messages provided to The Associated Press. Messages sent by the public to the governor are open records under Missouri law.
Holste said the measure is being reviewed by Nixon's office.
The Democratic governor has about a month remaining to sign or veto the legislation. Otherwise, it will automatically take effect — which is something Nixon has allowed previously with abortion bills. The Republican-led legislature approved the abortion measure by a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate.
Messages urging Nixon to sign this year's legislation expressed concerns about the well-being of women and the use of technology to assist with abortions.
One writer identifying herself as Paula Wagner of St. Charles wrote: "Let's leave this easy access to Redbox and soda machines, and allow our Missouri physicians to provide personal care and assure the safety of our citizens."
Another said that physicians need the ability to address any of their patients' needs.
"If telemedicine abortions were permitted, then physicians are distanced, literally and intellectually, emotionally, etc. from the patient," said a message from someone who identified himself as Michael Lampe of St. Louis.
Several messages calling for the legislation to become law included a similar request not to allow "modern technology" to "end precious human life in the womb."
Opponents urging Nixon to veto the legislation said there should not be additional restrictions on women's health decisions.
The president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri said in a letter that the legislation could hinder access to safe and legal medical care and called it an attempt to block availability of medication abortion.
"Considering that 97 percent of Missouri counties do not have an abortion provider, a ban on telemedicine would put care out of reach for even more women," said the message signed by national NARAL President Ilyse Hogue and Missouri NARAL Executive Director Pamela Sumners. "Access to this safe medication should not be denied to women in Missouri because of anti-choice politics."