September 2, 2014

Both sides react to ruling upholding ban on telemed abortions

A Polk County judge has ruled the Iowa Board of Medicine has the authority to create a rule that bans the procedure where a doctor sees a patient via a video link and gives them medication to induce an abortion. The board voted 8-2 in August of last year to require a physician see the patient in person before giving her the medication — citing concerns about safety.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland went to court try to overturn the rule, saying the vote was politically motivated and would adversely impact women seeking to get an abortion. Planned Parenthood interim CEO, Penny Dickey, talked to Radio Iowa about the ruling. “I am actually shocked and very disappointed that judge (Jeffrey) Ferrell ruled in this way. I had expected that it would be a different outcome,” Dickey says.

Dickey says the ruling, if it stands, would limit access to abortions. “It’s really unfortunate that he chose to make access to a safe, constitutionally-protected procedure in medication abortion less safe and less accessible to women who are seeking pregnancy termination,” according to Dickey.

A previous Polk County ruling allowed the telemed abortions to continue while the issue works through the court. Ferrell’s ruling today would lift the stay in 30 days pending an appeal. “We do have 30 days to file and appeal, and that if definitely our intent,” Dickey says. “And until that time, we will continue providing telemedicine, medication abortion services to women in the state.”

Dickey says they have nine locations that are now providing telemed abortions. She says the use telemedicine is expanding in almost every other case, and lawmakers and others trying to do what they can to help that expansion. “In this one particular instance is when the lawmakers, and the Board of Medicine and now obviously the judge, have decided that it is unsafe,” Dickey says. “We’ve done more than 6,000 telemedicine procedures in the state. We’ve had a high satisfaction rate with our patients. And a very successful program as it relates to providing safe medical care to women throughout the state.

Iowa Right to Life pushed to end telemed abortions and the group’s executive director Jenifer Bowen says they anticipated the ruling would go in their favor.

“We knew that this day would come because since 2008 when we first learned about this horrific plan, we have been trying to get the word out that not only unborn children were at risk, but also women who would never see a doctor and have these abortions. We knew they were at grave risk,” Bowen says. “We are very pleased to see that judge Ferrell has ruled in favor of the safety of Iowa women.”

She says this ruling is a victory, but also knows it doesn’t end the court battle. “Nothing in Iowa is every easy in this abortion fight, and so yes, we are fully anticipating the plaintiffs will appeal the decision and we are prepared for that to happen,” according to Bowen.

Bowen says the judge found the safety issue of seeing a doctor in person to be a legitimate concern. “You know often times we’re cast into a category of ‘well you only care about the baby’ or ‘you only care about saving the baby’s life,’ and …that’s never been the case. We care about the mother just as much as we do the child,” Bowen says. “And this was an opportunity to really put actions behind those words, because we were just as concerned, if not more concerned for the safety of these women.”

Bowen says Iowa Right to Life stood alone for many years in trying to point out the dangers in the procedures to women. “Planned Parenthood said for many, many years that there was not a single complication, all the while we knew they were logging in complication after complication on these abortions. We knew of gruesome stories of women who were left to deal with the dead body of their baby alone and returned to Planned Parenthood,” Bowen says.

Bowen says Planned Parenthood has “done a disservice to women” by touting the safety and lack of complications in these type of abortions.

‘Personhood Iowa’ to launch this Saturday

personhood-logoA new group will be holding its kick-off event this Saturday in Iowa and organizers say the aim is to change the conversation about ending abortion.

“We’re excited to start shaking things up a little bit,” says Rebekah Maxwell, the communications director for Personhood Iowa.

Maxwell says Personhood Iowa plans first to focus on changing the culture in Iowa churches and communities.

“We want to mobilize people who philosophically say, ‘Hey, I’m pro-life. I believe that every human being is created with purpose and worth and that deserves to be protected,” Maxwell says.

Political action is a “downstream” goal, according to Maxwell, who stresses that her group wants to change the “terminology” so the debate ultimately shifts to banning abortion rather than restricting abortion.

“When is a person a person? When does a human deserve human rights? When can they be protected by government, for example, since it’s government’s job to protect our human rights?” Maxwell asks. “I think that’s a very important question and one that tends to get lost in the larger debate about technique or restriction.”

In addition, Maxwell says Personhood Iowa plans to support “real, tangible alternatives” to abortion, like the ongoing care of the mothers and the children who are the products of unplanned pregnancies. She says all of these components amount to a “paradigm shift” for the movement.

“A more laser focus on what it is that we really believe,” Maxwell says. “It is the strategy for success, especially for the next generation.”

The launch of Personhood Iowa is scheduled for this Saturday, July 19 at Grace West Church in West Des Moines. Pastor Cary Gordon of Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City and the Reverend Ken Ratliff, the founder and leader of a Christian school in Des Moines, are among the scheduled speakers for the event.

Congressional candidate David Young stressing economic rather than social issues

David Young, the newly-minted GOP nominee for congress in Iowa’s third district, says his Washington, D.C. experience as an aide to three different senators is a strength, not a weakness. Young’s Democratic opponent, Staci Appel, has already started attacking Young as a “D-C insider.”

“Knowing how to hit the ground running in Washington, D.C., is an asset and working for Senator Grassley under his mentorship and tutalage is not a bad thing…He taught me how to listen to people,” Young says. “Iowans are my boss, not anyone else, not party leadership and we see what happens with party leadership sometimes. Look what happened to Erin Cantor when you don’t remember who your boss is.”

Young worked for Republican senators from Kentucky and Colorado before serving seven years as Grassley’s chief of staff. Young finished fifth in the Republican primary in Iowa’s third congressional district on June 3rd, but he secured his spot on November’s ballot in last weekend’s third district nominating convention.

Young says while he joins his fellow Republicans in opposing same-sex marriage and abortion, those are not issues he will stress in this year’s campaign. because nothing can be accomplished with President Obama still in the White House two more years.

“What I’ve been pushing here in my campaign are not social issues, although they are important to me personally, but issues on debt, the economy, government accountability,” Young says.

Young made his comments this afternoon during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight on Iowa Public Television.

Senate GOP asks Democrats to bring up tele-med abortion ban

Republicans are asking for a vote in the legislature to ban tele-med abortions.

Republicans are asking for a vote in the legislature to ban tele-med abortions.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate are calling on the Senate’s Democrats to help advance a bill that would ban so-called tele-med abortions — and key Democrats, in return, say they won’t join what they call the GOP’s “war on women.”  Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, says that’s offensive.

“Trying to protect the life and well-being of women by banning a procedure that doesn’t even meet a humane standard of care is a war on women? Seriously?” Sinclair said during a statehouse news conference. “Honestly, that statement doesn’t even deserve an intelligent response.”

The Iowa Board of Medicine voted last year to forbid doctors from remotely dispensing abortion-inducing drugs via a video-conferencing system. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has challenged that decision in court, so the ban has not taken effect. In February, the Republican-led Iowa House voted to ban telemedicine abortions and Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, said there are Democrats in the senate who would vote to ban tele-med abortions, although he’s not naming names.

“We know that this is not health care because we don’t hear from that third person in this decision and that’s the unborn child,” Johnson said during today’s news conference.

The House bill to ban tele-med abortions is not eligible for senate debate, as it did not clear a senate committee by last Friday’s deadline. Therefore, it would require the drafting of another bill — cosponsored by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the senate — to have the senate consider the issue. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, issued a written statement, saying the ban denies rural women access to “affordable, safe” abortion services.

Iowa House votes to ban “tele-med” abortions

The Iowa House has passed a bill that would forbid doctors from remotely dispensing abortion-inducing drugs via a video-conferencing system. Representative Kevin Koester, a Republican from Ankeny, was among the 55 House members who voted for the bill.

“I support this bill for many reasons, primarily due to the unsafe practice that impacts the use of this technique for terminating pregnancies in our state,” Koester said during today’s debate of the bill.

Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeshell, a Democrat from Ames, disagreed.

“First night of debate in the Iowa House for this session and what do we have?” she asked. “A bill that’s limiting a woman’s right to choose.”

The bill is not likely to be considered in the Iowa Senate where Democrats control the debate agenda. The Iowa Board of Medicine voted last year to ban so-called tele-medicine abortions, but that decision is being challenged in court by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. A judge issued a temporary injunction which has prevented the Board of Medicine’s ban from going into effect.

Judge temporarily halts rule banning tele-med abortions

A judge has placed a temporary hold on a proposed Iowa Board of Medicine rule that would ban doctors from dispensing abortion-inducing pills via a video-conferencing system at 15 Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa.

The rule was scheduled to go into effect Wednesday, but Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano today issued a temporary stay that prevents it from taking effect. In her 16-page ruling, Romano called the Board of Medicine’s rule “peculiar” because it requires in-person meetings between a doctor and a patient for a chemical abortion, but not for other tele-medicine practices in Iowa.

The judge also said she “strains to understand how decreasing the number of apparently safe abortion services offered” in Iowa protects the health and safety of Iowa women. The judge wrote that denying access to abortions-by-prescription early in a pregnancy would increase the need for “more invasive and risky” surgical abortions and might prompt some women to choose to “self-terminate their pregnancies…which is…the least safe” option of all.

The Board of Medicine voted 8-2 in August to ban so-called “tele-med” abortions and require a physician to conduct a physical exam of the patient and personally hand her the prescription drugs that would end her pregnancy. Under the video-conferencing system, the doctor presses a button to open a drawer in the room that contains the pills. Critics say that doctor should be the one to conduct the physical exam and talk face-to-face with the patient.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland officials say they’ll no longer offer medication abortions at 10 of their clinics if the rule goes into effect.

The judge’s temporary injunction will remain in effect as the lawsuit makes its way through the state’s court system.

Lawyers argue lawsuit over telemed abortion ban

A judge heard the lawyers’ arguments Wednesday in a case involving so-called “webcam” abortion services in rural Iowa.

Planned Parenthood is challenging an Iowa Board of Medicine rule that will put a stop to medication abortions in which a doctor gives the prescription to the patient over a video conferencing system. Planned Parenthood attorney Sharon Malheiro said 10 rural clinics will quit offering medication abortions if the rule goes into effect November 6.

“If implemented, this rule will adversely impact the ability of women to have access to early, lawful abortion services,” she told the judge. “…The sole purpose that is to prevent women in rural areas of Iowa from receiving timely access to a procedure that is safe, effective and no different from similar telemedicine services which continue to be permitted.”

Deputy Attorney General Julie Bussanmus spoke on behalf of the Board of Medicine.

“The board set practice standards for physicians using abortion-inducing drugs to protect the health and safety of women,” Bussanmus told the judge.

The rule would require a doctor to conduct a physical exam of a woman before handing her the prescription drugs that cause an abortion during the early weeks of a pregnancy.

“While this is a politically charged and divisive topic, the issue here is not a debate on the policy of abortion, the politics of abortion, the court’s beliefs on abortion or the board members’ beliefs on abortion,” Bussanmus said.

The judge said she will decide by next Tuesday whether to issue a temporary injunction that would prevent the rule from going into effect until the case makes its way through the court system.