Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Court upholds Iowa rule banning web-cam abortions

An Iowa trial court today upheld a rule from the Iowa Board of Medicine that regulates chemical abortion by requiring that a physician physically examine a woman before providing abortion-inducing drugs. The physician-approved regulation, which was adopted by an 8-2 vote of the Board of Medicine, would protect women from potentially dangerous misuse, such as taking the drug too late in pregnancy or during an ectopic pregnancy, by requiring an in-person exam by a physician rather than a videoconference. This practice is sometime called “telemed abortion.”

“Women can die when life-ending drugs are carelessly administered,” said Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest. “Iowa’s regulation and today’s decision demonstrates that doctors agree that chemical abortion can be dangerous for women and requires a careful examination. Providing these drugs without a physical examination by a physician amounts to nothing less than reckless gambling with the lives of women.”

During the litigation, Planned Parenthood admitted that, under its preferred method of chemical abortion, a physician never physically meets with a woman. Moreover, staff members—such as certified medical assistants (CMAs)—conduct physical exams or ultrasounds instead of doctors or other licensed healthcare providers.

Today’s decision acknowledged that chemical abortion is not safe for some women, and that the Board’s purpose was to ensure the health and safety of women considering chemical abortion by requiring physician presence. Such presence promotes the necessary physician-patient relationship and helps ensure examination by healthcare personnel trained to recognize the dangers inherent in the chemical abortion process.

The court also rejected Planned Parenthood’s arguments that the regulation is invalid under the U.S. Constitution, finding that the regulation poses no “undue burden” to women seeking chemical abortion in the state of Iowa.

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