Planned Parenthood Challenges Iowa Ban on Telemedicine Abortions

October 2, 2013 — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on Monday filed two petitions asking an Iowa court to review and block a recent rule change that would prohibit doctors from remotely dispensing abortion-inducing medication, the Des Moines Register reports (Leys, Des Moines Register, 10/1).

Last month, the Iowa Board of Medicine voted 8-2 to ban the use of telemedicine as part of medication abortion care. The new rules -- which could take effect as early as Nov. 6 -- require a doctor to be physically present when medication abortion drugs are administered to a woman (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/3).

Court Filings

PPH Medical Director Jill Meadows filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court requesting a judicial review of the rule. The group also asked the court to issue a motion for a stay that would block enforcement of the rule during litigation (Boshart, Quad City Times, 9/30).

The filings note, "The rule only applies to medical abortion by telemedicine, and no other medical procedure or practice through telemedicine." The group argues that the rule was politically motivated and "was promulgated solely for the purpose of preventing access to early abortion, and for no legitimate purpose relating to the health and well-being of Iowa women" (Des Moines Register, 10/1).


In a statement, Meadows said the rule "puts the health and well-being of Iowa women in jeopardy and impedes my ability to offer safe health care in rural communities throughout this state." She added, "Over the past five years, our physicians have provided medication abortion through telemedicine to more than 3,000 women in Iowa. During that time we have received no patient complaints" (Quad City Times, 9/30).

Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, said the board's rule was based on real concerns. She cited federal documents of complications from abortion-inducing medication, including 612 hospitalizations and 14 deaths nationwide (Des Moines Register, 10/1).

In a statement on Friday, the medical board said "a physician must establish an appropriate physician-patient relationship prior to the provision of a medical abortion," adding, "The physician's in-person medical interview and physical examination of the patient are essential to establishing that relationship" (AP/Omaha World-Herald, 10/1).