An Iowa state legislative committee has approved a pro-life bill that will ban the dangerous practice of telemed abortions. A telemedicine abortion is when a woman is prescribed medication that induces an abortion without seeing a doctor in person.
The subcommittee voted two-to-one to prohibit the use of webcams or teleconferencing as a means of dispensing abortion-inducing drugs to patients in remote locations. The two Republicans voted in favor and the one Democrat was opposed. The bill now moves to the House Human Resources Committee.
The bill would require that women seeking an abortion be in the presence of a physician when receiving the pills. It also outlines disciplinary procedures to be taken should a physician violate the terms of the bill, which can include the revocation of a doctor’s license.
Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, who sponsored the bill, said if women don’t have immediate access to an abortion-inducing drug, he hopes more might consider carrying a pregnancy to term.
“If that mother is now unable to go and get a webcam abortion, maybe it’ll give her a little bit more time to think about it,” Windschitl said. “That would be my hope.”
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The Iowa Board of Medicine approved rules last summer that prevented doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication unless they physically met with the person seeking an abortion.
Previously, doctors were allowed to just speak with the woman seeking the abortion over a video call.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland would not stand for the restriction and filed a lawsuit in September over the Iowa Board of Medicine’s rules in an attempt to block the rules from being enforced.
In November, a judge in Polk County decided that the rules would be temporarily suspended until the case is resolved.
Windschitl’s bill will not likely face a great deal of opposition in the House given the pro-life sentiment among the Republicans who hold the majority.
However, Democrats hold the majority in the Iowa Senate, though only by a 26-24 margin. The Quad-City Times notes that Senator Joe Seng of Davenport, who often votes against his pro-abortion Democratic colleagues on abortion-related legislation, might upset this majority.
“I think it should be looked at in the Senate, and I would support it,” Seng said.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland CEO Jill June called Windschitl’s efforts “misguided.”
“What the polls tell is by and large the public does not want to see abortion outlawed, the public is very empathetic about those women who are being denied these services,” June said.
However, polls indicate that the number of Iowans supporting increased restrictions on abortions is rising. Furthermore a 2011 straw poll indicated that voters in Iowa care about the pro-life stance of candidates. The source for June’s polls was not cited. At the time of publication, the writer could not locate a poll with results mentioned by June.
In Iowa, medically induced abortions were almost as numerous as surgically induced abortions in 2012, according to Iowa Department of Public Health statistics.
In 2012, 2,314 medically induced abortions were performed and 2,324 surgically induced abortions were performed in the same year.
The previous year saw 2,522 medically induced abortions in Iowa and 2,871 surgical.
The drugs prescribed by telemedicine in Iowa include Mifepristone, better known as RU-486, which has most recently been linked to the death of a British woman.