Judge will rule by Tuesday on PP request for stay of new rule on web-cam abortions

By Dave Andrusko


Judge Karen Romano

Judge Karen Romano said this morning that she will rule by Tuesday on a request by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland for a stay of a rule instituted by the Iowa Board of Medicine that abortionists must be physically present when dispensing chemical abortifacients to pregnant women.

At issue is what the Board sees as a matter of safety and PPH sees as an impediment to its relentless campaign to expand abortion into rural areas.

The hearing comes two days after Austin-based U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled on portions of Texas’s pro-life HB 2. In this context the relevant point is that Judge Yeakel said nothing to challenge the law’s requirement that the abortionist “must examine the pregnant woman,” which is not done in web-cam abortions.

PPH has asked Romano first to impose a temporary stay on the rule (adopted August 30), then to overturn it permanently. This morning’s hearing in Polk County District Court focused on the request for a stay. Unless a stay is granted, the rule goes into effect November 6.

In its lawsuit, PPH said, “The rule was promulgated solely for the purpose of preventing access to early abortion, and for no legitimate purpose relating to the health and well-being of Iowa women.” In court this morning, PPH elaborated: “The sole purpose of the rule is to prevent women in rural areas of Iowa from receiving timely access to a medical procedure that is safe, effective and no different than similar telemedicines that continue to be permitted,” according to its attorney, Sharon Malheiro.

There were also murmurings by Planned Parenthood supporters that (as Des Moines Register reporter Tony Leys put it) “the medical board ruling was rooted in anti-abortion politics.”

Julie Bussanmas, an assistant attorney general who represented the Board, offered a spirited, thoughtful explanation of the Board of Medicine’s reasons. For example, she pointed out nothing in the new rule requires PPH to stop providing chemical abortifacients at the ten clinics PPH says it uses the videoconferencing system. “Planned Parenthood can stock those clinics with physicians if they so choose,” she said.

In a key admission, Malheiro said PPH installed the video system because few out state physicians are willing to do abortions. “If they could have doctors at the clinics all the time, they would,” she said, according to Leys’s story.

As for “anti-abortion politics, Bussanmas told Judge Romano, “There’s been no evidence that any board member was motivated by any improper motive.”

As currently practiced, so-called “web-cam” abortions (pro-abortionists prefer “telemedicine”) mean the abortionist is never in the room with the pregnant woman. Instead women go to their local Planned Parenthood clinic, talk with a counselor, have some blood work, an ultrasound, maybe an exam by a “trained staffer,” and if allowed to proceed, teleconference with an abortionist back in Des Moines, where PPH is headquartered.

If he is satisfied after a brief consultation, the abortionist remotely releases the abortion pills to the woman. She first takes the mifepristone (RU-486) at the abortion clinic. Later at home she takes misoprostol, a prostaglandin, to initiate powerful contractions to expel the tiny corpse. She is given the number of a 24 hour hotline to call if she has problems.

Several other states (like Texas) have passed laws, similar to the proposed Iowa rules, mandating that the abortionist be physically present in the same room as the patient to whom he is giving the abortion pills. This alone would effectively end the web-cam program, as his presence renders the whole arrangement and apparatus moot.

Supporters of web-cam abortions argue that it benefits women in rural areas, enabling them to obtain abortions without having to travel long distances to far away big city clinics. But it seems that the convenience of the abortionist would really be the greater factor, rather than the woman’s, who would obviously be better served by the physician’s presence, conducting an actual physical exam, monitoring her progress, ready to step in if there is some medical emergency.

The web-cam system enables the abortionist to avoid all the travel. He simply scrolls from one abortion patient to another on his computer screen all the while raking in money at a faster rate than he ever could physically going from one rural clinic to another.

Please join those who are following me on Twitter at twitter.com/daveha. Send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com.