Iowa Legislative Panel Allows Ban on Telemedicine System for Abortion To Go Forward

October 8, 2013 — The Iowa Administrative Rules Review Committee on Monday declined to delay a rule that bans the use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion, AP/ABC News reports. The rule -- which is scheduled to take effect Nov. 6 -- requires a physician to be physically present when medication abortion drugs are administered and mandates a follow-up visit by the doctor (Pitt, AP/ABC News, 10/8).

The committee voted 5-4 against delaying the ban; all of the panel's Republicans voted to move forward with the ban (Leys, "Iowa Politics," Des Moines Register, 10/7).


The Iowa Board of Medicine in 2010 ruled that doctors at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland could continue to dispense medication abortion via its telemedicine program. However, Gov. Terry Brandstad (R) subsequently replaced all the board members, and the new appointees proposed and voted to move forward with the ban after abortion-rights opponents filed a petition asking the board to end the telemedicine program (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/3).

PPH on Sept. 30 filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court, asking the judge to block the rule from taking effect (AP/ABC News, 10/8). 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/2).

Ahead of Monday's Vote

Before the vote, the Iowa Medical Society -- the state's largest physicians' group -- testified that the medical board's decision to adopt the rule was "not credible." IMS Vice President Jeanine Freeman said her organization was "taken aback" by how the board just three days before its decision accepted wording proposed by abortion-rights opponents. Freeman noted that the board could have resolved its concerns about the use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion with less drastic steps, adding that the rule could lead to bans on other uses of telemedicine.

In response, state Sen. Mark Chelgren (R) said that he would like state officials to review all uses of telemedicine. He added that the use of telemedicine for medication abortion was under particular scrutiny because of Roe v. Wade, which he said gives states "a legitimate interest in seeing to it that an abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that ensure maximum safety for patients" ("Iowa Politics," Des Moines Register, 10/7).