A legislative committee’s tie vote on Tuesday means rules that would ban so-called “tele-med” abortions in Iowa can move forward. The Board of Medicine has proposed rules that would no longer allow doctors in Iowa to dispense abortion-inducing pills via a video-conferencing system. Dr. Robert Shaw is chairman of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s board of directors. Shaw says the Board of Medicine reviewed the practice in 2010 and decided it could continue, but since then Republican Governor Terry Branstad has replaced all 10 members of the board. “This is a terrifying example of politics dictating health care,” Shaw says. Kelly Larsen, a nurse who works at a clinic that encourages women with unplanned pregnancies to consider options other than abortion, is among those who signed a petition asking the Board of Medicine to take the action.
“I believe that this proposed rule is a necessity due to the risks that are imposed to the women if any side-effects were to happen,” Larsen says. Larsen says she’s fielded “multiple calls from multiple women” suffering side-effects after having a medication abortion. Shaw — the leader of the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland board of directors — counters that none of the more than three-thousand women who’ve had medication abortions prescribed via video-link have filed complaints about the procedure.
“I cannot remain quiet about the medical inaccuracies being presented,” Shaw says. Sue Thayer was the manager of a Planned Parenthood center in Storm Lake when what she calls “web-cam” abortions were first introduced. “I had very serious concerns about that, the procedure,” Thayer says. “…I still have those same concerns today.” Erin Davison-Rippey, a policy analyst for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, suggests the Board of Medicine is going beyond its authority since bills that would have banned the practice were proposed in the legislature in 2011 and again in 2013, but never became law.
“The legislature has had some opportunities to weigh in on this and has not,” she says. Mary Purtle, an opponent of abortion, says she is “upset” by the concept of tele-med abortions. “It’s more of tele-death,” Purtle said. “…It’s taking the life of a healthy baby in a presumably healthy mother.” The legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee has the authority to delay the rule banning tele-med abortions, but a bid to do that failed on a tie vote Tuesday afternoon. The same arguments for and against the tele-med abortion ban will be made August 28th at a public hearing in Des Moines about the rule. After that, the Board of Medicine will again review the matter at one of its meetings and the rule could go into effect sometime around October 23rd, although legal action would likely follow to delay implementation.