Iowa Panel Votes Down Planned Parenthood Videoconferencing System
By Michelle Nicolson
TMCnet Contributing Writer
The Iowa Board of Medicine voted last week to require in-person meetings between doctors and patients as well as direct after-care services. The ruling will curtail a videoconferencing system from Planned Parenthood that dispenses abortion pills to women in rural areas.
The state panel cited concerns about the videoconferencing system, voting eight to two in favor of a proposed administrative rule establishing new standards of practice for physicians who prescribe and administer abortion-inducing drugs. The revised rules could take effect in November.
The videoconferencing system, operated by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland since 2008, enables doctors in Des Moines to consult with patients in rural clinics via closed-circuit video and remotely dispense medication that would induce an abortion.
Supporters say Planned Parenthood’s practice is safe and patients get the same level of care as those who see a doctor in person. They contend the system was researched thoroughly to ensure it was in full compliance with Iowa law. They also say the service provides access to healthcare for women in remote parts of the state who wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain it.
Opponents contend abortion-related services were being provided without adequate guidelines and administered by medical assistants with minimal training.
“This is Iowa. This isn’t Tanzania,” said board member Monsignor Frank Bognanno of Des Moines. “I think we could do a little better than this. This is a big deal. This isn’t like taking an aspirin.”
Jill June, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, issued a statement following the ruling that the board has “rushed to judgment.”
“This decision is a political attack aimed at restricting access to abortion in Iowa,” June said. "Proponents of this rule aren’t against telemedicine technology; they are against safe, legal abortion and are unjustly targeting our system with no scientific information or evidence to back their claims.”
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will continue to provide medication abortion through telemedicine delivery at 15 health centers across Iowa until the rule goes into effect.
The Iowa Medical Society asked the Iowa Board of Medicine to put the rule on hold rather than adopt it Friday, expressing concerns that other telemedicine practices will be thrown into doubt if the board adopts the rule.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey