Anti-Choice Agenda Trumps Medicine in Iowa

This week, Iowa lawmakers declined to delay a rule that could end abortion access for women in rural areas.  A legislative committee, voting along party lines, upheld a rule passed by the Iowa Board of Medicine that will ban the use of telemedicine for early abortion procedures. 

In 2010, the medical board approved the use of telemedicine to dispense abortion pills.  After that decision, however, anti-choice Governor Terry Branstad replaced the entire board, facilitating this latest restrictive decision. 

Over the past several years, Iowa family planning clinics have been successfully using the innovative telemedicine system to serve women in isolated areas of the state that would otherwise have limited healthcare access.  The telemedicine procedure allows women to receive healthcare services at a clinic closer to their home by teleconferencing with a doctor in another city.  Doctors still maintain full control over the dispensing of pills, and trained staff members oversee all procedures.  Planned Parenthood of the Heartland reports that the video conferencing system has allowed them to serve more than 5,000 women who might not otherwise be able to access these services. Not one of these women has filed a complaint. 

The board’s hearing and decision appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to restrict women’s access to abortion services.  This ruling was the result of limited discussion with medical professionals, and the Iowa Medical Society, which is the state’s largest physicians’ group, testified before the vote that the medical board’s decision to adopt the rule banning telemedicine was “not credible.”  Iowa lawmakers, however, appear to consider themselves more qualified to make medical decisions than doctors and chose to uphold the rule despite the objections of the medical community and the proven safety of the use of telemedicine.  The rule specifically targets women’s reproductive health services and is not designed to restrict video-conferencing for any other medications or procedures. Such government overreach into the personal medical decisions between individuals and their physicians goes against the real Republican values of personal liberty and limited government. 

Planned Parenthood will challenge the constitutionality of the rule in court. 

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