The Republican war on women wages on. The Iowa Board of Medicine, entirely hand-picked by Republican Governor Terry Branstad, voted 8-2 Friday to ban “telemed abortions,” cutting off rural women’s access to remote physicians who can prescribe medications to safely end an early pregnancy.
Consequently, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will be prohibited from using the video conferencing technology it has used for five years to allow rural patients to consult with doctors about medically ending a pregnancy before nine weeks gestation.
The restriction demeans a woman’s intelligence and body by requiring that she travel far to gain access to a medical treatment that approximates a heavy, crampy period. To add to the farce, abortion opponents, like board member Dr. Greg Hoversten, claim that these abortions are playing out over the internet, saying “How can any of us possibly find that a medical abortion performed over the Internet is as safe as one provided by a physician in person?"
In fact, after taking the first dose of drugs, usually a combination of Mifepristone (RU-486) and Misoprostol, the woman leaves the office and the pregnancy ends hours to a day later in the privacy of her home, with physical symptoms that are similar to what happens when a woman experiences an early miscarriage.
The Republican maneuvering to ban telemed women’s health services in Iowa has quite a history. The medical board had already heard and dismissed a complaint about the same issue two years ago. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has since replaced all 10 members on the board and – miraculously – the new board agreed to reopen the matter when the anti-abortion group Iowa Right to Life submitted a new petition this year.
Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said she believes Governor Branstad was helping to push the effort, saying that Iowa Right to Life had kept in communication with the Governor’s office about its petitioning of the medical board.
“There has been a synchronized effort to acquire a vote outlawing Planned Parenthood’s telemedicine delivery system based entirely on politics rather than scientific fact,” June said.
Dr. Tom Ross, a Planned Parenthood physician, says the web-based consultation system in use for five years is just as safe as office visits in which a doctor personally hands the pills to a patient. Mifepristone has been approved in the U.S. since 2000 and millions of women have used it to end their pregnancies.
Of course, telemed health services are only banned when doctors are using it to enable women to end early pregnancies. Doctors use the remote consult system in a variety of patient encounters. The technology has been praised for increasing access to health care services while reducing costs.
So, are women capable of making the choice of what stays – and doesn’t stay – in their uterus? Or should Republicans be allowed to carry out a coordinated strategy to eliminate a woman’s right to choose?