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Judge Weighs Iowa Ban on Telemedicine Abortion Program

Judge Weighs Iowa Ban on Telemedicine Abortion Program

June 18, 2014 — An Iowa judge heard arguments this week over whether the state should ban the administration of medication abortion drugs via a telemedicine system, the Des Moines Register reports.

Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell is expected to rule in the next several months, according to the Register (Rodgers/Leys, Des Moines Register, 6/17).

Background

Although the Iowa Board of Medicine in 2010 ruled that doctors at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland could continue to dispense medication abortion drugs via its telemedicine system, Gov. Terry Brandstad (R) later replaced all of the board members, who then approved rules barring PPH from administering medication abortions through the system.

PPH sued, and a judge last November issued a temporary stay against the ban (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/6/13).

Latest Arguments

Alice Clapman, an attorney for PPH, told the judge on Monday that the Board of Medicine's rules would force women to make multiple trips to a clinic, which would create "a general hardship for women" and particularly affect low-income women and domestic violence survivors. She said the ban would "actually increase the medical risk [women] face by delaying their abortions, pushing them into the second trimester when medication abortion is not an option and when the risks of surgical abortion are higher."

Clapman also noted that the board previously reviewed the telemedicine system and ruled that it was safe, meaning that its latest decision was a reversal.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Julie Bussanmas countered that the board has no legal obligation to stand by its prior decisions.

She also dismissed a suggestion from PPH that the board consider mandating employee training requirements for clinics to address its concerns, noting that the board has no authority over employees like physician assistants and nurse practitioners (Des Moines Register, 6/17).