August 18, 2022

How will Indiana’s abortion law affect medications that treat other conditions like lupus? 

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One member of Indiana Two-Way from South Bend was curious about how Indiana's near-total abortion ban might affect their access to lupus medication – which can also be used to medically induce abortions. - FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks/IPB News

One member of Indiana Two-Way from South Bend was curious about how Indiana's near-total abortion ban might affect their access to lupus medication – which can also be used to medically induce abortions.

FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks/IPB News

Indiana’s abortion law bans the procedure in almost all cases, with limited exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the pregnant person.

One member of Indiana Two-Way from South Bend was curious about how this might affect their access to lupus medication – which can also be used to medically induce abortions.

Jody Madeira is a law professor at Indiana University Bloomington. She said this new law may affect access to these medications.

“Pharmacists have to honor all prescriptions, but they are immune from criminal prosecution or civil liability if they refuse to honor prescriptions because in their professional judgment, it would be contrary to the law or a patient's health and safety are against the patient's best interests,” she said.

She said in some states, women have been refused medication treating conditions like arthritis.

Madeira said there have been several scenarios in Texas that show blocked access to this drug.

“An 8-year-old girl was initially refused a prescription for methotrexate, another abortion medication by a pharmacist that said that females of childbearing potential have to have a diagnosis on hardcopy,” Maderia said.

In Indiana, pharmacists are typically expected to prescribe as the doctor ordered. But a 2019 law expanded protections for medical professionals who object to abortion on “ethical, moral, or religious grounds” to refuse to participate in abortions, to include pharmacists who refuse to dispense abortion-inducing drugs.

“There's nowhere in the abortion bill where it addresses pharmacists, refusals. Nor does it necessarily give pharmacists leave explicitly in the bill to sign off on prescriptions for abortion medication,” she said.

READ MORE: Governor Holcomb largely dismisses potential economic impact of abortion ban


 

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Madeira said pharmacists should recognize that lupus medication, in particular, requires a lower dose to treat this condition compared to the higher doses required to induce an abortion.

She also emphasized patients with lupus and other conditions may experience severe pain without receiving their prescriptions, and this may lead pharmacists to continue to prescribe these medications.

However, Madeira said uncertainty may lead pharmacists to create more hurdles for patients to receive treatment.

“This might be actually right, that until these regulations are worked out, and until physicians know which medications are going to be scrutinized more closely, that they're going to assume that all medications used for abortion as well as other conditions might be scrutinized more closely,” she said.

She added that with immunity from civil prosecution or civil liability, pharmacists are free to make their own judgments.

Indiana’s near-total abortion ban goes into effect on Sept. 15.

This story came from a question through the Indiana Two-Way. Do you have a question about the new abortion law? Join our weekly text group by texting "Indiana" to 73224.

Contact reporter Violet at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.

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