Democrats carried the day March 24 as the Delaware House voted along party to lines to expand access to abortion-inducing drugs in the state.
The vote was 25-15 with Republicans casting the “no” votes for House bill 320 which allows advanced practice registered nurses or physician’s assistants to prescribe chemical abortion drugs currently restricted in Delaware to a doctor’s authorization. The bill was approved March 16 by the Delaware House Health and Human Development committee.
The measure will next be considered by the state Senate. After the House committee vote, Gov. John Carney’s spokesman said they are following debate in the General Assembly and don’t have any comment beyond that.
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.
Some lawmakers questioned whether advanced practice nurses or physician assistants would be able to prescribe the drugs to students in school health and wellness centers.
“Most of our wellness centers are staffed by physician assistants and advance practice nurses,” said Rep. Ruth Briggs King, a Republican from Milford.
Heffernan said that is not currently how it works.
Rep. Stephen Smyk, a Republican from Dover, said he has heard from an overwhelming number of church and ACLU members in his district who strongly oppose the bill.
Joseph Fitzgerald, representative for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, told the House 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.