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State statute requires parental authorization before doctor can prescribe FDA-approved drug.

On Notice

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Pregnant girls in Virginia who want to use the abortion pill approved by federal regulators earlier this month will not be able to take the drug until their parents are notified.

State officials and abortion-rights leaders agree that Virginia's parental notification law is broad enough to cover the use of mifepristone, formerly known as RU-486.

"It appears that Virginia's parental notification statute still applies with regards to the prescribing of RU-486 by doctors," says David Botkins, spokesman for Attorney General Mark Earley. "Any doctor who provides medical treatment to a minor must have parental authorization anyway."

"The parental notice law in Virginia does cover mifepristone," says Karen Raschke, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy.

"Regardless of how I feel about that, that's the answer."

The law, approved by the General Assembly in 1997, requires physicians to notify parents before performing abortions on minors. It defines abortion as inducing a miscarriage or interrupting or terminating a pregnancy by any surgical or nonsurgical means.

State officials say they are uncertain whether the drug could be included under a state law that bans the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions, except when the mother's life would be endangered by continuing a pregnancy.

Claude A. Allen, secretary of Health and Human Services, says the Gilmore administration will wait to see what federal regulations are placed on the use of mifepristone before deciding whether additional restrictions are needed in Virginia.

A state legislator, however, said he is researching the drug with the goal of submitting legislation to restrict its use in Virginia.

Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, said one approach he is considering is to restrict the use of drugs in cases in which a pharmaceutical manufacturer does not endorse certain applications of their product.

Officials with Searle, an Illinois pharmaceutical company, have said they will not promote one of their products for use as part of nonsurgical abortions.

Searle makes misoprostol, a treatment for ulcers that uses the brand name Cytotec. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of mifepristone in conjunction with misoprostol for early-stage pregnancy termination.

Mifepristone blocks progesterone, a hormone required to maintain pregnancy.

Misoprostol is a hormonelike substance that causes the uterus to contract and expel the fetus.

Marshall says he is uncertain to what extent the state can restrict the use of mifepristone in Virginia, but he said he would look at setting limits on its use through Medicaid and state employee insurance, and perhaps even withholding other types of state funding for hospitals that provide the drug.

"We don't have to give money to clinics that dispense this or to hospitals that use it," he says.

— Landmark News Service



Parental notification
The law, approved by the General Assembly in 1997, requires physicians to notify parents before performing abortions on minors. It defines abortion as inducing a miscarriage or interrupting or terminating a pregnancy by any surgical or nonsurgical means.

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