The Ottumwa Courier

September 30, 2013

Group wants to block ban on abortion pill system


Ottumwa Courier

---- — DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland asked an Iowa court on Monday to block the upcoming ban of a video-conferencing system used to distribute abortion-inducing pills in the state.

The group and its medical director, Jill Meadows, filed in Polk County District Court for judicial review of the ban issued in late August by the Iowa Board of Medicine. The group also filed a motion for a stay, which would make the ban ineffective during litigation.

The board's executive director, Mark Bowden, said he hasn't read the filing and the board has no comment at this time.

The telemedicine system, the first such system in the U.S. when it began in 2008, involves a doctor consulting with patients in remote clinics across the state. The doctor, typically based in Des Moines, uses an Internet video system to distribute abortion-inducing pills.

Abortion opponents said the practice is dangerous and petitioned to the board this summer to ban it. Planned Parenthood said there is no medical evidence to support that argument.

The medical board has the authority to make such policy decisions. Its new rule, approved on an 8-2 vote, would require that a doctor be physically present with a woman when providing an abortion-inducing drug.

The board said in a statement Friday that the goal of the new rule is to protect the health and safety of Iowans.

"The Board believes that a physician must establish an appropriate physician-patient relationship prior to the provision of a medical abortion," it said in the statement. "The physician's in-person medical interview and physical examination of the patient are essential to establishing that relationship."

Planned Parenthood said the ban jeopardizes women's health and is based on politics.

"This unwarranted decision only serves to delay receipt of quality health care," the group said in a statement after its filing. "Planned Parenthood will not stand by and let this happen to our patients and the women of Iowa."

The ban is scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 6.