Iowa GOP Pushes Senate Leaders To Vote on Telemedicine Abortion Ban

March 19, 2014 — Iowa Republicans on Monday called upon state Senate leaders to allow a vote on a bill (HF 2175) that would bar physicians from administering abortion-inducing drugs using video conferencing systems, the Des Moines Register reports.

The measure passed in the state House, but it was declared dead last week after the state Senate failed to act on it before an administrative deadline. However, Iowa Senate rules allow legislative leaders to bring the measure back up for a vote (Petroski, Des Moines Register, 3/17).

The bill would only affect Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which has administered more than 5,000 medication abortions using a telemedicine system in which a physician video conferences with a patient at another clinic.

The state House passed the bill as a court case continues over the legality of rules from the Iowa Board of Medicine that effectively prohibit PPH from using its telemedicine system to administer medication abortions. A judge in November granted PPH's request to block the rules while the case proceeds (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/13).

GOP Pressures Senate Leader

During a press conference on Monday, state Sen. David Johnson (R) said a floor vote could occur "with the help of leadership from both parties."

Johnson added that legislative action on the bill is necessary to affirm the state Board of Medicine's policies, saying that prohibiting the use of telemedicine for abortions would not restrict telemedicine in other area of medicine (Liepelt, AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/17).

However, Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum (D) said Democratic leaders would not allow a vote on the bill. She said it is not appropriate for the Legislature to consider the measure while the lawsuit is pending (Des Moines Register, 3/17).

In addition, state Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D) in a statement said that the measure would restrict access to health care. He added he was "disappointed Iowa Republicans have launched a new front in the national so-called war on women by opposing affordable, safe access to health care for rural Iowans" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/17).