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Op-Ed: No 'Justifiable Medical Reason' for Telemedicine Abortion Bans

Op-Ed: No 'Justifiable Medical Reason' for Telemedicine Abortion Bans

July 30, 2015 — "Because of its proven value, telemedicine has been embraced by the medical community for almost every facet of medicine, save one: medica[tion] abortions, where politicians in some states have increasingly sought to regulate it to the point of virtual unavailability," Amesh Adalja, a Pittsburgh-based physician, writes in a Pittsburgh City Paper opinion piece.

According to Adalja, medication abortion is "safe and effective." He writes, "In areas of the country in which access to [health care] providers is not convenient or available, telemedicine brings this treatment to women who choose to employ it."

However, several states -- including Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa -- "have banned the use of telemedicine for medical abortions," while Pennsylvania already regulates abortion so heavily "that new laws basically have nothing left to regulate," he writes. He adds, "In light of this worrisome trend, the recent ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court to strike down this ban in that state is encouraging."

Adalja writes, "There is not a justifiable medical reason for this restriction." Rather, he notes that using telemedicine to provide abortion care is restricted because "many people seek to restrict the rights of women to their own bodies while at the same time dictating how physicians and other health-care providers practice medicine -- a double injury to the causes of liberty and free enterprise," Adalja argues. He continues, "This strategy of making the ending of a pregnancy as arduous as possible is apparent not only in telemedicine bans, but also in the efforts to dictate that physicians must have hospital admitting privileges, and must perform what is usually an office-based procedure in ambulatory surgical centers."

Adalja writes, "It does not matter that the medical service in question in these cases is abortion, because abortion is a right and the government's circumscription of it is tantamount to the nullification of that right, as well as of a physician's right to practice medicine." He concludes, "Telemedicine is path-breaking technology that will revolutionize health care and improve access to care, control costs and open up whole new avenues for innovation. It must not be left susceptible to government interference that clearly vitiates the once-sacrosanct U.S. Constitution's principle of liberty" (Adalja, Pittsburgh City Paper, 7/29).