June 27, 2013 — An Iowa antiabortion-rights group on Tuesday submitted a petition urging the state Board of Medicine to ban the use of telemedicine during medication abortions, the Des Moines Register reports.
The petition from Iowa Right to Life specifically targets Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which operates a telemedicine program that allows physicians to speak to patients over videoconference, remotely dispense medication abortion drugs and observe patients taking the first dose. Women then take the second dose at home.
The board of medicine has 60 days to consider the petition. Mark Bowden, the board's executive director, noted that if the board denies the petition, it is required to give an explanation (Petroski, Des Moines Register, 6/26).
Iowa Right to Life Executive Director Jenifer Bowen said that because no physician is physically present, the telemedicine program violates a state law mandating that only licensed physicians perform abortions. Bowen said more than 20,000 people signed the petition.
PP Heartland President and CEO Jill June said in a statement, "Extreme groups who created this petition are using false information to discredit a safe delivery system for medication abortion." She added, "Telemedicine is a safe, effective delivery system to expand access to health care for rural women who would have to travel long distances to see a doctor," noting that "numerous studies have proved that using tele-health services to deliver medication abortion is not only safe and effective, but highly acceptable among women" (Boshart, Cedar Valley Courier, 6/26).