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Delaware House committee moves forward with bill that expands access to chemical abortions

A pro-life advocate is seen near the U.S. Supreme Court Dec. 1, 2021, the day justices heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization about a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

An advanced practice registered nurse or physician’s assistant would be allowed to prescribe abortion-inducing drugs currently restricted to a doctor’s authorization under a bill approved March 16 by the Delaware House Health and Human Development committee.

The bill could next be considered by the full House.

Rep. Debra Heffernan, a Democrat, is the primary sponsor of House Bill 320. Doctors are currently the only people in Delaware approved to prescribe medication for the termination of pregnancy, she said.

“This is important because we all read in the newspaper about the provider shortage we have in this state,” she said at the hearing. “It’s time to remove this prohibition.”

“In many practices, doctors are not the primary person in the practice,” she said. “The doctors may not have the time for these prescriptions. This increases access for women in Delaware.”

Joseph Fitzgerald, representative for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, told the panel the diocese opposes HB320. He said the bill is not consistent with the church’s position and this authorization should not be extended beyond physicians. He said the diocese and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are opposed to all chemical abortions.

“I call on leaders of every level of government to stand with women in need by promoting policies that recognize the value and human dignity of both mother and child, rather than further promoting the devastating tragedy of abortion,” said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a December statement.

Committee member Rep. Richard G. Collins, a Republican, spoke out against the bill.

“I cannot understand the dispassion behind abortion,” Collins said. “I just wish somebody can explain to me, in a moral way, why we do these things.”

Retired nurse Bess McEnany testified she envisions chemical abortions being made available in school wellness centers.

“I can foresee that will be the next step,” McEnany said. “We’ve gone from contraception available in public schools to the likelihood of abortion in our wellness centers. Outside of a full-service medical facility, a chemical abortion can be deadly.”

Moira Sheridan, president of Delaware Right to Life, called the bill “dangerous and a disservice to women. It dissolves the mantra that an abortion is between a woman and her doctor. This bill will brush abortion even more into the darkness.”