Over the past few months, we’ve been following the news reports about Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s telemedicine program, which allows women to access medication abortion through a live video consult with a doctor.
The program involves a Des Moines physician evaluating a patient via the video service and using a remote control to unlock mifepristone, the medical abortion pill. The patient takes the first dose under the doctor’s supervision, and then takes the remaining dosage in the privacy of their home. This service has allows women in rural areas, who would otherwise not have access to abortion, to safely terminate their pregnancies. So far, sixteen Iowa clinics are able to provide this service.
In October 2010, anti-abortion activists spoke out against the program, claiming it violates an Iowa law that requires all abortions to be performed by a physician. The discrepancy prompted the Iowa Board of Medicine to review the program, and a decision was reached earlier this month. In a letter to Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, the main organization behind the protest, the Iowa Board of Medicine held that the telemedicine program is not in violation of Iowa law and no doctors will be sanctioned for participating in the program.
This is good news for the women of Iowa, who greatly benefit from the service. Approximately 2,000 women have utilized the telemedicine program since it began in 2008, a statistic that shows the necessity for rural women to gain access to reproductive health options.