Monday, June 28, 2010

Abortion pills being dispensed in rural Iowa via telemedicine; Operation Rescue objects

An anti-abortion group has asked for a criminal investigation of Planned Parenthood's unique use of telemedicine to dispense abortion pills in rural Iowa, spotlighting rural health-care considerations. Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group based in Kansas, says Planned Parenthood's system, in which a Des Moines physician interacts via computer with patients seeking abortions in small-town clinics, violates a state law requiring that all abortions be performed by a physician and has asked the state attorney general to investigate, Tony Leys of the Des Moines Register reports.

Under the system, the first of its kind in the country, a doctor meets with the patient via video conference. "Once the doctor is satisfied that the patient meets the criteria, he or she enters a computer command that opens a drawer in front of the patient," Leys writes. "The patient then reaches into the drawer, retrieves the abortion pills and takes the first dose as the doctor watches." The pills are available to women in the first nine weeks of pregnancy, The New York Times reports.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland leaders told the Register that the system is a safe way to provide abortions in towns where the procedure otherwise would not be available. Patients are examined by on-site nurses before the video appointment and receive follow-up appointments to check for complications. Operation Rescue disagrees, writing, "Please fully investigate this risky 'telemed abortion' scheme, and take whatever legal action is appropriate, including injunctive relief and criminal charges, to protect women from an abortion process that is apparently illegal and certainly dangerous," in its letter to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. A spokesman for Miller said he didn't believe the attorney general had received the letter yet, but he thought the matter was better left to the Iowa Board of Medicine, with which the group had previously filed a complaint. (Read more)


Unknown said...

For a point of clarification, I believe your blog post is confusing different drugs. This situation -- I read a couple stories about it -- deals with medication that causes the termination of a confirmed pregnancy. It is not the morning-after pill, which is an entirely different medication. Morning-after pills are often available over the counter and taken, as the name says, the morning after unprotected sex.

Al Cross said...

Thanks for the correction. The Register article didn't make the distinction clear; we added a reference to the Times article by Monica Davey and corrected the post.