Iowa House proposal would ban telemedicine abortions

Opponents say measure could jeopardize all telemedicine in state

Mike Wiser
Published: February 5 2014 | 3:06 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:13 am in

Doctors could be fined and have their licenses suspended for prescribing abortion-inducing drugs using remote technology under a bill approved by a House subcommittee Wednesday on a party-line vote.

The bill, House File 2073, seeks to outlaw telemedicine abortions in the state. The fine and license suspension provisions were amended onto the bill Wednesday to replace criminal penalties that previously were in the bill.

Telemedicine is the short-hand term for doctors prescribing medicine from remote locations, typically using a video link. It's particularly popular in rural areas where access to health care professionals is limited.

Last year, the Iowa Board of Medicine issued rules requiring doctors who prescribe abortion-causing medication, such as Mifepristone, to be physically present with a patient when they do.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit against the rules, and a Polk County district court put a stay on the rules until the case is resolved.

Erin Davison-Rippey, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, brought up the litigation during Wednesday's subcommittee meeting, where the bill moved forward on a 2-1 vote.

“If a woman is unable to get to a provider, she is left with only surgical abortions in Iowa,” Davison-Rippey said. “This bill could jeopardize all telemedicine.”

Iowa Catholic Conference Executive Director Tom Chapman said the bill protects the health of women, because abortion-inducing drugs have “very serious effects” on health.

“We should go the extra mile,” he said.

They were two of nine speakers, not including lawmakers, who shared pro or con views on the bill. The hearing was relatively quick and considerate, given the topic, discussion of which has led to some of the most impassioned and heated debate in the Capitol over the years.

The tone of the meeting was set at the outset by subcommittee Chairman Kevin Koester, R-Ankeny, who asked everyone to be respectful of one another's point of view and had speakers take turns — a proponent first, followed by an opponent and so on through the hearing.

“My Creator, God, gave me a law-abiding focus on how I'm going to proceed on this,” he said.

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