Iowa Officials Will Not Release Report on Planned Parenthood Telemedicine System

September 6, 2013 — Iowa officials have refused to give Planned Parenthood of the Heartland doctors a report written by a state investigator regarding the safety of the group's telemedicine system for administering medication abortions, the Des Moines Register's "Iowa Politics" reports.

Last week, the Iowa Board of Medicine voted 8-2 to ban the use of the telemedicine system. The conferencing system is the first of its kind in the nation and allows Planned Parenthood providers in Des Moines to consult with patients in other clinics throughout the state.

Supporters of the telemedicine system say it is a safe way for women to access abortion services in areas where there are no other doctors to provide them. Opponents question the system's safety, as well as local clinic staff's qualifications to perform ultrasounds and other tests before patients talk to doctors through the system.

PPH physicians Susan Haskell and Thomas Ross asked for a copy of the report last week, but the board denied the request. In an email to the Register, Mark Bowden -- the board's executive director -- said that state law dictates that investigative reports are confidential.

Board Chair Greg Hoversten last week told the Register that board members did not read the report before the Friday vote. He said that banning the telemedicine system was based only on safety concerns, not on personal opinions about abortion.

Planned Parenthood supporters believe the decision was political, and the group's leader has suggested a possible lawsuit. Shelby Cloke -- a Planned Parenthood spokesperson -- said the group's doctors "were alarmed that the Board of Medicine did not review" the report, adding that the organization's providers "believe they have a right to review a copy of the records from the investigation" (Leys, "Iowa Politics," Des Moines Register, 9/4).