Iowa Board of Medicine Votes to Halt Webcam Abortion Pill Scheme

By Cheryl Sullenger

Des Moines, IA – The Iowa Board of Medicine voted 8-2 on Friday to adopt new regulations that would ban the practice of distributing abortion pills over an internet video-conferencing connection, known as “telemed” or “webcam” abortions.

“How can any of us possibly find that a medical abortion performed over the Internet is as safe as one provided by a physician in person?” asked Dr. Greg Hoversten, Chairman of the Iowa Board of Medicine.

“We view this as a huge victory for the pro-life movement as well as for pregnant women who have been subjected to dangerous, substandard experimental abortion practices by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “It is the culmination of nearly four years of efforts on the part of local and national pro-life groups, including Operation Rescue, and we all celebrate this victory together.”

The new rules could take effect as early as October or November, providing Planned Parenthood does not challenge the new safety regulations in court.

Earlier this year, 14 Iowa physicians petitioned the Board for a regulations change to halt the practice. Hearings were held on Wednesday, the highlight of which was an exchange between Board member Dr. Robert Bender and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Chairman Robert Shaw. Shaw refused to answer questions posed about whether Planned Parenthood or Shaw in his own practice solely relies on histories and exams conducted by employees with only a 10-week training certificate (CMA) to diagnose and prescribe medications to patients.

“This is about the basis of medicine. A history and physical is the bedrock that we all depend upon before we prescribe treatment,” Bender stated. In the webcam abortion process, the abortionist is not present with the patient, performs no physical examination, and is not available to the patient should complications arise.

Operation Rescue brought the abortion pill distribution scheme to light after an undercover investigation in March, 2010, then exposed plans by Planned Parenthood Federation of America to expand the scheme into every one of their clinics nationwide. Since then, Planned Parenthood’s plans to conduct what would have been the largest expansion of abortion services since Roe v. Wade were foiled after bans on webcam abortions were enacted in 16 states. Federal legislation was also introduced. This made Planned Parenthood affiliates in other states reluctant to invest in the required hardware for a process that could soon be outlawed in their states.

Webcam abortions were first introduced in Iowa by Planned Parenthood in 2008. An abortionist in one office briefly interviews a potential abortion pill customer in another location over an internet video-conferencing connection then remotely releases a drawer at the patient’s location that contains the abortion pills. The woman takes one pill in the office in front of the webcam, then is sent home to self-administer the rest of the pills. Unsupervised, she then undergoes heavy, painful cramping and bleeding, which result in the passing of the pre-born baby.

Initially, Operation Rescue joined with Iowa Right to Life and other Iowa groups to oppose the dangerous process that had spread to 15 locations in Iowa. However, the groups were stonewalled by the Iowa Attorney General’s office and the Iowa Medical Board, which was comprised at that time by abortion sympathizers. Since then, the Board has been completely replaced with new appointees of Rep. Gov. Terry Brandstad.

Planned Parenthood argued that the ban on webcam abortions would impact women in rural areas, but an examination of the 15 communities in which abortion pills are dispensed remotely shows that none are considered “rural” and all have other medical facilities and physicians that can ethically care for the needs of women.

Operation Rescue extends thanks to the Iowa Board of Medicine for voting to adopt the new safety rules. We also congratulate Iowa Right to Life, Americans United for Life, and other groups that worked tirelessly to protect women from this substandard and dangerous practice that places profits above the health and safety of women and their babies.

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