NRL News

Judge to hear Planned Parenthood challenge to Iowa board of medicine’s new rules governing web-cam abortions

by | Oct 29, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

Iowa Board of Medicine

Iowa Board of Medicine

With the new rule on web-cam abortions scheduled to take effect next week, lawyers for the state of Iowa and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will meet tomorrow in Polk County District Court to thrash out PPH’s challenge to a ruling by the Iowa Board of Medicine that abortionists must be physically present when dispensing chemical abortifacients to pregnant women.

PPH filed its lawsuit against the medical board in September, asking for a stay on the rule which takes effect November 6. State lawyers responded earlier this month.

“The rule was promulgated solely for the purpose of preventing access to early abortion, and for no legitimate purpose relating to the health and well-being of Iowa women,” the lawsuit says.

“In a quirk of the government process, the board’s response against Planned Parenthood was submitted by the office of Attorney General Tom Miller,” wrote the Des Moines Register’s Tony Leys. “Miller is a Democrat and a strong supporter of abortion rights, but his office’s tasks include defending the actions of state agencies.” The state lawyers deny there was any political motivation and say “that there is no legal justification for a judge to overturn it,” according to Leys.

As National Right to Life News Today has reported, the case is potentially hugely important for the Abortion Industry. Using a video-conferencing system, a single abortionist could “supervise” many, many times the number of women he could actually abort, were he to be required to be in her presence. The added revenue is staggering.

Iowa—the birthplace of webcam abortions

The “birth” of the web-cam abortion came in July of 2008, when Planned Parenthood’s behemoth Midwestern affiliate began offering them at 16 of their smaller clinics scattered around Iowa. Women go to their local Planned Parenthood clinic, talk with a counselor, have some blood work, an ultrasound, maybe an exam by a “trained staffer,” and if allowed to proceed, teleconference with an abortionist back in Des Moines, where PPH is headquartered.

If he is satisfied after a brief consultation, the abortionist remotely releases the abortion pills to the woman. She first takes the mifepristone (RU-486) at the abortion clinic. Later at home she takes misoprostol, a prostaglandin, to initiate powerful contractions to expel the tiny corpse. She is given the number of a 24 hour hotline to call if she has problems.

Even under normal, non-web-cam circumstances, the chemical abortion process is generally painful, bloody, and protracted. Women taking these drugs have been hospitalized for hemorrhage, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and infections, some of which have proven fatal. A number of women end up in surgery when the chemical method fails. (See below.)

In just its first year offering web-cam abortions, the number of chemical abortions performed at PPH grew to exceed the number of surgical abortions by 2,582 to 2,210. Many of the new web-cam abortions were surely a part of that sad statistic.

PPH grows and grows and grows. It first swallowed up nearby smaller local affiliates. PPH announced a merger with PP of Nebraska and Council Bluffs in August 2009, another with PP E Central Iowa in December 2010, a merger with PP SW Iowa in May 2011, and in 2012 a merger with PP of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. It’s announced plans to open six new clinics in Nebraska and another six in Iowa.

Background to Board of Medicine Decision

Responding to public concerns expressed in an Iowa Right to Life petition signed by 20,000 Iowans, and a formal petition presented by 14 Iowa medical professionals challenging the safety of web-cam abortions, the Iowa Board of Medicine met June 28, 2013, to consider new rules to govern the practice. The August 28 meeting, which lasted 3 ½ hours, was to give the public the opportunity to comment on the proposed new rules. The new rules were adopted a few days later on an 8-2 vote.

Representatives of Planned Parenthood argued that the web-cam system was safe and effective and called the new rules “unwarranted, unnecessary,” and “restrictive.” But the more the board probed, the more they found evidence of troubling practices with regard to chemical abortions, web-cam and otherwise, at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, such as exams performed not by doctors or nurses, but by minimally trained assistants.

Supporters of web-cam abortions argue that it’s just a subset of telemedicine. Telemedicine can be traced all the way back to the days of the space program as a way to treat astronauts far from any doctor’s office. Used properly it offers a real benefit to those needing immediate emergency medical care who can’t get to the hospital right away or to location bound people whose chronic conditions can be treated remotely.

If you have no objections to using telemedicine for legitimate medicine, you ought not to be bothered by having it employed to kill the unborn—or so the illogical argument goes.

However as NRLC’s Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon explained in great detail (see “Iowa Board of Medicine considering new rules governing web-cam abortions”), there are serious questions about the safety of web-cam abortions.

An April 30, 2011, FDA “Mifepristone U.S. Postmarketing Adverse Events Summary” found more than 2,200 “adverse events” associated with use of the abortion drugs, including 14 women in the U.S. who died. Women taking the drug were hospitalized with ruptured ectopic pregnancies, blood loss requiring transfusions, and infections that proved deadly in at least seven cases. This is much more serious than simply taking an aspirin suggested by a nurse over the phone.

“Given what we know about the all too real dangers of chemical abortions for both their intended and unintended victims, no one should be doing them, but least of all, some video doctor from hundreds of miles away who has never physically examined his patient and won’t be anywhere near if something goes wrong,” Dr. O’Bannon told NRL News Today.

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Categories: Webcam abortion