WASHINGTON, D.C., June 20, 2011 ( – A ban on federal funds for “telemedicine” medical abortions was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week as an amendment to an appropriations bill governing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which passed later the same day.

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa spearheaded the amendment to the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012, HR 2112. The amendment stated that “none of the funds made available by this Act may be used for mifepristone, commonly known as RU-486, for any purpose.”

The broad language is designed to ensure that the bill’s allotment for the development of telemedicine services won’t be taken advantage of by the likes of Planned Parenthood, which has expressed strong interest in expanding its abortion business through the new technology.

In a telemed abortion, the abortionist speaks to the mother seeking an abortion in a distant location via an internet video link-up, and then dispenses the abortion drug RU-486 from a locked drawer with the push of a button.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has maintained a pilot telemedicine program in that state since 2008, which the Iowa Board of Medicine allowed despite complaints from pro-life leaders. Lawmakers in neighboring Nebraska passed a law last month making telemed abortions a felony.

The amendment passed 240-176 in Thursday’s vote, with 14 Democrats joining all but nine Republicans in support. The amendment will likely face a tougher battle for survival in the Democrat-led Senate.

“American taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize abortions, and federal telemedicine grants should not be used to enable abortion providers like Planned Parenthood to dispense the RU-486 abortion drug,” said King in a statement following the vote.

In February, King and several other congressmen asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius whether tax dollars were funding the remote abortions. The lawmaker said Sebelius in response asserted that the office had issued grants to Planned Parenthood for telemedicine.

While introducing the amendment, King called the “robo-Skype abortions” “abhorrent.”

“This is a dangerous drug, and to distributed it through robo-Skype abortions — I’m opposed to it philosophically for a lot of reasons, but practical minds who might disagree on the abortion issue should understand that this government should not be paying for it,” he said.

Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson has agreed that RU-486 is too dangerous to be compatible with telemedicine. The drug, also known as mifepristone, has been linked to the known deaths of at least a dozen U.S. women as well as hundreds of life-threatening complications.

“Planned Parenthood is certain to downplay these risks because abortion is the organization’s biggest moneymaker,” said Johnson last year.