Governor Terry Branstad says he hopes the Iowa Board of Medical Examiners forbids so-called “tele-med” or “web-cam” abortions.
Last Friday, the board voted overwhelmingly to draft a rule that would no longer allow doctors on a video connection to supervise administration of the so-called abortion pill. Supporters say it helps women in rural areas of the state who can’t travel to a city where they can get the medication, called mifepristone. Branstad opposes the practice.
“Many health care professionals feel that the health and well-being of women are put in jeopardy with these ‘tele-med’ abortions,” Branstad says.
Iowans for Life presented the Iowa Board of Medical Examiners with petitions signed by 20,000 people, asking the board of end what they termed “web-cam” abortions. Eight of the 10 members of the board voted to start the process of doing just that and the governor supports the move.
“This process, of course, has just begun,” Branstad says. “There will be extensive opportunity for public input and comments and there will be a public hearing.”
The governor says women who ask for the abortion pill should be examined in person by a doctor.
“Even the FDA guidance on the pills themselves say there should be a physical examination in a doctor’s office or a hospital, so I believe that the Board of Medical Examiners is indeed moving in a direction that will protect the health and well-being of Iowa women,” Branstad says.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has been offering “telemedicine” abortions in Iowa since 2008. Termination with RU-486 — the abortion pill — does not require surgery. Most states require that a doctor counsel a patient before prescribing RU-486. A few allow nurse practitioners to dispense the drug. Four states ban “tele-med” abortions.
Critics say women who take mifepristone can suffer complications at home after taking the medication. Supporters point to a 2011 study which found women who received ‘telemedicine” abortions in Iowa from Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had no more complications than those who received in-person counseling from a doctor.
Branstad made his comments this morning during his weekly news conference. The issue was raised at the 13-minute mark.
AUDIO of govenror’s weekly news conference, 15:00
(This story was updated at 7:28 p.m. to remove references to the “morning after” pill. Planned Parenthood officials say it’s not the same as mifepristone, which can be administered up to 9 weeks into a pregnancy.)