The latest abortion battle is not being fought by doctors against religious protesters, but instead by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Iowa Board of Medicine. In August, the Iowa Board ruled that secure video-conferencing between patients in rural communities and doctors in Des Moines, Iowa would no longer be adequate consultation in order to prescribe RU-486, a drug that terminates pregnancies. According to The Associated Press, a judge “ruled Tuesday that Planned Parenthood could still use video conferencing to distribute abortion-inducing pills while the organization challenges a new ban on the practice in court.”
The Iowa Board says that the teleconferences provide “inadequate health care” for women, who live in rural Iowa. In a statement they said an “in-person medical interview and physical examination of the patient are essential to establishing [an appropriate physician-patient] relationship.” However, Judge Karen Romano ruled to allow the process to continue because sufficient evidence that it was dangerous was not provided to Polk Country District Court. She also noted that it was odd for the board to mandate the ban for this specific service, and not any of the dozens of other telemedical practices in Iowa.
Reports from The Houston Chronicle and a number of other outlets, extoll the virtues of telemedicine and assert that it saves lives. The Department of Veterans Affairs has used telemedicine to great effect in recent years in order to provide care for veterans who live many miles away from a VA hospital.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood suggest that the board only made the ruling because of board members’ personal opposition to abortion. The board was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad, a conservative Republican who recently signed a controversial bill that gives him control over whether money in the Medicaid budget can be used to pay for abortions.