Pro-Life Leaders Vow to Fight Iowa ‘Telemed’ Abortions
By Kathleen Gilbert
DES MOINES, Iowa, August 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A coalition of pro-life leaders on Friday delivered a letter to the Iowa Board of Medicine asking that it investigate a scheme allowing doctors to distribute the risky RU-486 abortion drug without being present to the patient, known as "telemed" abortions.
The scheme, which Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has implemented since June 2008, allows doctors to prescribe the abortion pills via a remote-control system to women in remote areas who visit an office with an unlicensed assistant.
In their letter to the Board, 57 local and national pro-life leaders point out that the scheme conflicts with Iowa law requiring a physician to perform abortions, and with Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protocol recommending that the drug be distributed. "The absence of a licensed physician performing a physical examination poses a significant health threat to the mother of the unborn child," they write. "An examination could reveal potential risk factors that may prevent a physician from prescribing RU-486 to the patient. These risk factors, if unidentified, could lead to excessive bleeding, infection, and death.
"Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is ignoring this basic tenet of care by passing responsibility and directing patients to the emergency room if complications do occur."
Several groups in the coalition, led by Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for L.I.F.E. (Life Is For Everyone), denounced the scheme in a press conference Friday, the same day the Board invited comment on the topic.
DeWitte told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) she was hopeful that the board would research the scheme and "come to the conclusion that this is not what Iowa needs, this is not safe for women or for our families, and decide to put a stop to it."
"We're going to continue to put the pressure on [and] go forward with what we know is happening, and make sure they are aware of it," she added.
Rep. Steve King, a U.S. Congressman from Iowa, also submitted a letter to the Board expressing concern over the "unlawful and dangerous practice" of telemed abortions. King released his letter on Friday, the same day the Iowa Board of Medicine took public comment on the telemed abortion practice.
The Thomas More Society also submitted a letter pointing out that "the regimen established by the FDA and the manufacturer of RU-486 (Danco Laboratories) make it crystal clear that [the abortion drugs] are to be ingested in the presence of the physician who has administered them."
Approximately 30 people came to speak at the Board hearing on the topic; however, the Board only allowed seven people to comment. They gave the seven speakers a total of ten minutes for their combined remarks. All speakers expressed opposition to telemed abortions.
Speakers included former Iowa Health Commissioner Norm Pawlewski, who now heads Iowa Christian Alliance, Attorney Tom Brecha of the Thomas More Society in Chicago, IL, Maggie Dewitte of Iowans for Life, Jennifer Bowden of Iowa Right to Life, Monsignor Frank Bognanno of Christ the King Parish in Des Moines, Registered Nurse Michelle Locher, and Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, who filed the original complaint with the IBM.
During the press conference, Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue announced that her group had filed complaints demanding criminal investigations of allegedly illegal telemed abortions in ten Iowa counties and has re-filed a request for a state audit with the State Auditor and the Iowa Insurance Commission.
“We received a letter from the Iowa Attorney General ‘s office that sounded more like a letter from a Planned Parenthood attorney than from someone who is sworn to uphold the laws of the State of Iowa," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "Because is it now clear that Mr. Miller is acting as an apologist for Planned Parenthood and an obstructionist in the process of enforcing Iowa law, we will bypass his office and go to the local authorities."