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Planned Parenthood appeals after judge upholds Iowa ban on webcam abortions

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Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is moving ahead in court to protect its telemed abortion plan in Iowa.

The nation’s largest abortion provider asked the Iowa Supreme Court to put a hold on Polk County District Judge Jeffrey Farrell’s August 19 ruling upholding the Iowa Board of Medicine’s rule requiring a physician be present when an abortion is performed.

Judge Farrell’s ruling lifted the November 2013 stay on the Board of Medicine rule and means the ban will go into effect September 17. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland asked the Iowa Supreme Court August 28 to issue a stay on Judge Farrell’s ruling while its justices consider the appeal.

“If this Court does not grant a stay,” the Planned Parenthood appeal said, “the Rule will make it impossible for Petitioners to provide abortion services at seven out of nine clinics where they provided them until today – over 70 percent of previously available sites.”

“To receive care,” it said, “women will have to travel up to more than 500 miles round trip, multiple times, to Des Moines or Iowa City, the only two cities where a physician is present.”

With a telemed abortion the doctor dispenses abortion-inducing drugs to an expectant mother from a different location. Critics have opposed the practice because it leaves the pregnant mother alone to face possible complications.

Planned Parenthood quietly introduced telemed abortion in Iowa in 2008 to test the system, planning to take it nationwide.

The abortion giant has argued throughout that the Iowa Board of Medicine’s decision to uphold Iowa law was political, saying the board’s 10-member make-up is slanted because it was appointed by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who is pro-life.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had also said deliberation prior to the board’s 2013 decision was not thorough enough. In its first petition, they stated, “The board did not undertake a thorough study of the matter, nor did it consider the impact the rule might have on telemedicine in general.”

However Judge Farrell rejected this, stating in his August 18 ruling: “The board considered a significant amount of data and public comments on the issue and adopted a narrowly focused rule which would allow it to consider telemedicine in a broader sense at a future date.”

Planned Parenthood asserted in the August 28 appeal that webcam abortion is extremely safe and effective.

In the last six years, “PPH’s [medication abortion] program has served over 6000 Iowa women,” it said. “With no evidence of any safety risk whatsoever and not a single patient complaint.”

Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue, echoed the Iowa Board of Medicine’s concern for Iowa’s expectant women.

“Without a hands-on personal exam by a physician, physical conditions that may contraindicate medication abortion could well go undetected,” she said. “Ectopic pregnancies, which, untreated, can pose a life-threatening emergency for the mother, are more likely to go undetected.”

Sullenger told LifeSiteNews that medication abortions have a 7-20 percent failure rate, depending on the gestational age when the abortion is attempted.

The most common complication is incomplete abortion, which must be completed surgically, she said. 

“However, women who get the abortion pill remotely have no access to follow up or emergency care by the dispensing abortionist,” said Sullenger. “This creates a lack of patient care continuity and increases the risk factors for such abortions.”

Sullenger told LifeSiteNews there are no hard stats on complications suffered during the webcam abortion process because Iowa has absolutely no abortion reporting laws. 

“Women who have complications are instructed to report to local emergency rooms,” Sullenger said. “So Planned Parenthood isn't involved in the after-care when complications arise.”

The fact that the physician has no personal contact with the patient and cannot physically examiner her is below accepted medical standards, said Sullenger. 

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“Most legitimate telemedicine takes place between patient and physicians that have a long-term relationship, she said. “The physician has at some point seen these patients in his office and physically examined the patient.” 

Abortionists and their patients have no such long-term relationship, she continued. 

“In fact, the abortionist and patient have never met before and will likely never see each other again,” said Sullenger. “That limits the amount of information about the patient that the abortionist has access to and can negatively impact his ability to make appropriate decisions about what is safe for the patient and completely negates any ability for the woman to receive follow-up care that is within the standard of patient care, especially when complications arise.”

Sullenger said it is not unusual to have to travel to another city for legitimate medical services, with many people of challenging financial means regularly doing just that, and no one expressing concern over the hardship they may experience.

“Why do abortionists expect special treatment for abortion patients when women in other, direr situations also have to travel?” Sullenger asked. “If concern for women was their intent, Planned Parenthood would not be subjecting women to experimental, substandard conditions with no capacity for physician follow up.”

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland declined to comment on the appeal.

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