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.