Polk County District Judge Jeffrey Farrell upheld the ban on telemed abortions (webcam abortions) that the Iowa Board of Medicine imposed last year. It was imposed based on FDA protocol for the use of RU-486 aka Mifeprex, the primary drug. The protocol call for a doctor to be actually be present:
“Mifeprex may be administered only in a clinic, medical office, or hospital, by or under the supervision of a physician, able to assess the gestational age of an embryo and to diagnose ectopic pregnancies. Physicians must also be able to provide surgical intervention in cases of incomplete abortion or severe bleeding, or have made plans to provide such care through others, and be able to assure patient access to medical facilities equipped to provide blood transfusions and resuscitation, if necessary.”
As it was being done by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH), a minimal exam was done by a nurse that basically consisted of a sonogram. The sonogram was e-mailed to the PPH doctor in Des Moines. Then after a short talk with the woman via Skype about the drugs, the PPH doctor in Des Moines pressed a button that opened a drawer with the 2 drugs used. The 2nd drug was taken at home a few days later & rarely was there a followup as required by the protocols. (Note: I am assuming that that minimal exam etc, was followed based on their sides claims. Given their track record of covering up rape, etc, I am not sure how accurate that even that minimal claim of what they do is accurate.
Many concerns were raised about this dangerous disregard for the safety of women. On 28 August 2013 the Iowa Board of Medicine held a public hearing on the regulation of telemed abortions that I, along with many other Pro-lifers from Dubuque attended. 1 of those who spoke was Marian Bourek, executive director of Dubuque County Right to Life
(DCRTL). Marian had spent 2 terms as a lay member of the board. She talked about the use of dangerous chemicals for the women where "there was not a patient-doctor relationship for the woman."
She went on to add "If Planned Parenthood, or any doctor, truly cares about women they would follow the FDA recommendations and not use the procedure at all.
The hearings were set up to allow each side to take turns. It was interesting to watch how it was a few of the pro-abortion supporters that tried to speak out of turn, especially from their seat in the audience. The Board quickly put an end to those attempts.
As I listened to what the telemed abortion supporters said, I got very upset with some of the lies & half-truths they said. I didn't get up to speak in response to what they said. However, I did submit a written statement addressing those claims.
About a month later the Board voted to require a doctor be actually present, effectively banning telemed abortions. The ruling was scheduled to go in effect about 3 November 2013. Naturally PPH wasn't happy & immediately filed a lawsuit to ban the rule from taking effect in November. A few days before the ruling was to go into effect, the judge allowed PPH to continue doing the procedure until his ruling was made.
Today that ruling was made by Judge Farrell. In it he said that the Iowa Board of Medicine had the authority to make the rule. "There is no question that the board has the power to establish standards of practice for the medical profession. Those standards include the authority to adopt and enforce standards regarding the minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing practice."
He also said they followed all the legal requirements before making the rule. This ruling means that a doctor MUST physically examine the woman. The judge also said that despite the added cost and time required for some women, it did not create an undue burden on them.
The ruling is scheduled to go into effect in 30 days.
Another claim made by PPH in the lawsuit was that Monsignor Frank Bonanno played an "outsized role
" in the ruling. The judge disagreed. He said "Monsignor Bognanno may oppose all abortion, but the record demonstrates that he focused his attention on medical abortion and the applicable standard of care."
The judge also replied to the complaint that Mnsr Bognanno inappropriately distributed antiabortion materials to other board members. "The materials he sent to other board members focused on medical abortion, and his public statements were limited to the standard of care for medical abortion."
When I asked her about the ruling, DCRTL's Marian Bourek had the following to say: "I'm thrilled with the judge's ruling. He obviously took into account the safety of women."
Naturally PPH has said they will appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Throughout this whole time the big claim made by PPH about banning telemed abortions was that it was an attempt to limit rural women's access to abortion. Or as they put it, needed medical care. They said at the hearing & everywhere else that these women were unable to get to larger cities to have access to abortion.
As usual. with PPH the reality is quite a bit different. They talk about their concerns for women in rural areas, but their actions say something else.
According to PPH, these women were unable to get to the larger cities & needed the more convenient access that a PP site in rural communities would provide. This year PPH has closed the last few of their rural sites, including the only 2 that offered telemed abortions. The past few years before that they closed the other 6 rural sites they were running.
1 of those was in Monticello. When they openned it about 8 years ago they used the same claim about women needing currently unavailable access to medical care. A couple of years later they closed it down saying that women were going to the Dubuque & Cedar Rapids sites instead. So much for the claim of the huge need.
While we are on the claim of a huge need, 7 years ago this week, Planned Parenthood of Eastern Iowa (now a part of PPH) opened its Dubuque site on Central. At the time they were open 40+ hours a week. They moved about 2 years ago to their own building. At that time they claimed they were not planning on adding telemed abortions to their services They did so up to just before the addition of telemed abortions. Now the Dubuque site is only open 13-1/2 hours a week. What happened to the huge need in Dubuque & all those women from the Monticello area that were coming here? Sadly, about the only time they do have people is the day they offer abortions.
According to the Des Moines Register story, in 2011 PPH had 16 sites that offered telemed abortions, earlier this year they said that only 7 sites offer them. PPH described the closings of various sites & the reduction of the number of sites offering telemed abortions as well as the closings as shifts being made for efficency reasons.
The 16 & 7 counts don't tell the whole story. In 2011 the Dubuque site didn't offer telemed abortions, now it does. Also, since PPH"s Cedar Rapids site just stopped offering them. That would make the number 17 at one time & now 6, for a reduction of 11 sites. But that 6, or even 7, isn't correct according to PP's website. The listing of Iowa sites
shows that 9 sites currently offer telemed abortions. Or as they describe it "abortion pill (medication abortion)
: this number is subject to change.) So why don't the 2 numbers match up? Why the downplay on the actual number of sites?
PPH started offering telemed abortions in 2008. In 2007 there were 6649 abortions, all surgical. In 2012 there were 4648 surgical & medical abortions, a drop of 30%. PPH claims that this is due to an increased use of contraception, including longer acting ones.
The reality is different. There are more crisis pregnancy centers in Iowa that provide real alternatives. I can't speak for every PP site, but I do know the peaceful prayerful picketers at the Dubuque site also try & talk to the women as they go by. That includes making them aware of the alternatives in Dubuque like The Clarity Clinic
& Birthright of Dubuque
. The Clarity Clinic has seen an increase in the number of unborn babies saved over the past year. & they have now opened a 2nd location in Platteville WI near UW-Platteville.
Another fact that PPH ignores when it talks about efficency reasons is the power that prayer has played in shutting down most of the sites & the reduction of hours at the Dubuque site. As I already mentioned, every hour that PPH is open in Dubuque people are out there praying. The same is true elsewhere in Iowa. There have been 2 40 Days for Life
campaigns across the state that have seen several of the sites where they took place close.
The battle isn't over yet. As I pointed out, PPH said they will appeal. They will. We must keep praying that the Iowas Supreme Court does the right thing & uphold Judge Farrell's ruling.
But for now, there is a pause among Pro-lifers to celebrate & thank God for the victory won today.
Sources: Judge rules against use of telemed abortion system
Judge Upholds Iowa Pro-Life Law Banning Dangerous Webcam Abortions
Judge upholds Iowa law; telemed abortion to end in 30 days
Judge: Priest's role in telemed-abortion vote was OK