Commentary by Abby Johnson

June 3, 2010 ( – Abortion is a risky business. It’s risky for the unborn child, of course. But there’s also risk for the woman who undergoes the procedure, and that fact is often ignored by those who promote — and profit from — abortion.

Those risks could increase substantially under a new scheme Planned Parenthood has developed for expanding abortion to areas that are not served by its current network of surgical abortion facilities. And Planned Parenthood is certain to downplay these risks because abortion is the organization’s biggest moneymaker.

I worked for eight years at Planned Parenthood, and I know that medical abortions — abortions done through the abortion pill, RU-486 — are far from risk-free. This pill is used through nine weeks of pregnancy to abort a child without surgery. According to RU-486’s own website, at least six women in the United States have died in the past five years from using the abortion pill. Because the abortion pill can cause severe side effects, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has developed regulations for its use. One of the rules is that the pill can be administered only by a doctor.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartlands (Greater Iowa) dispenses RU-486 to hundreds, if not thousands, of women every year. However, this affiliate has previously been unable to distribute the abortion pill at its rural clinics, some of which are as much as 120 miles from a hospital or emergency care facility, because there is no doctor available.

Their answer is “telemedicine,” where a doctor at a remote location conducts patient consultations over the Internet. This scheme completely bypasses the foundational in-person, doctor-patient relationship that is necessary for real health care.

Planned Parenthood stands to make enormous profits if this type of “telemed” abortion is successful.

This method is not being done in other parts of the country – yet. But Planned Parenthood intends to expand the use of this procedure.

Two years ago, I went to a National Abortion Federation meeting and listened to a nurse from Planned Parenthood of the Heartland brag about the new telemed abortion method. He said it would revolutionize the way medical abortions were conducted, starting in Iowa and then expanding throughout the nation.

Last week, at an event in Cedar Rapids, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards spoke glowingly of the telemed abortions and indicated hopes to roll out the system nationwide over the next five years.

Even when I was a 2008 Planned Parenthood “employee of the year,” I thought this system sounded risky.

Since many of Planned Parenthood’s facilities in Iowa are in rural areas, it’s downright scary to think of what could happen to any woman who suffers complications from RU-486.

The Iowa Board of Medicine and the FDA must take immediate action to ensure that the dangerous telemed abortions are stopped. Iowans should demand that their elected officials take swift action to strip all taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood.

Abby Johnson of College Station, Texas, is a former clinic director in the Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas affiliate. After a conversion experience from witnessing an abortion procedure by ultrasound, she resigned and now works in the pro-life movement. Comments: