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.