Judge Rules Planned Parenthood Can Continue to Distribute Abortion Pills Via Teleconference; Christian Group Calls Iowa to Oust Judge

A conservative Christian group is calling for Iowa's voters to oust a district judge after she ruled Tuesday that the state's Planned Parenthood may continue the practice of distributing abortion pills via teleconference while a lawsuit challenging a ban on the practice makes its way through court.

In a statement posted on its website on Wednesday, the conservative Christian group The Family Leader called on Iowa's voters to oust District Judge Karen Romano when she is up for retention in 2016. The group was previously instrumental in leading a 2010 campaign that ousted three of the state's Supreme Court justices for their approval of same-sex marriage.

"Iowans once again are experiencing another example of an activist judge who feels she knows better than the Iowa Board of Medicine, the Governor, and the people of Iowa. Webcam abortions were supposed to stop on November 6, 2013 thanks to a wise decision by the Iowa Board of Medicine," the statement from The Family Leader reads. "But now, this abortion practice that endangers women will continue because an activist pro-abortion judge thinks her role is lawmaker."

"In 2010, Iowans held three activist supreme court judges in check when they voted 'no' on their retention. Apparently Judge Romano has not learned a lesson from that vote. The Family Leader encourages Iowans to remember Judge Karen Romano's activism when she is up for retention in November 2016," the statement added.

Chuck Hurley, chief counsel at The Family Leader, added in a statement that his organization believes pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood need to "quit politicizing the courts with their agenda, and it's time the courts stop imposing their will on Iowans, and leave rule-making and legislating to those constitutionally empowered to do so."

The conservative family group was quick to highlight that it is not launching any official campaign calling for Romano's ousting; rather, it was "simply pointing out that it was this kind of judicial activism by Iowa judges that led to Iowans voting out three Iowa Supreme Court judges in 2010."

On Tuesday, Judge Romano ruled that a ban on telemedical abortions that was supposed to go into effect on Nov. 6 would be temporarily lifted while a lawsuit challenging the ban proceeded through court. In August, the Iowa Board of Medicine approved a ban on video conferencing to distribute abortion-inducing pills, arguing that it was in the women's best interest and health that a doctor be physically present with a woman and perform a physical exam on her before administering abortion-inducing pills.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland issued a challenge to the new ban shortly after it was approved, arguing that the purpose of the telemedical conferencing is to communicate with women in rural areas of the state through a secure internet connection so they may receive abortion-inducing medication without inconvenience.

Romano granted Planned Parenthood's request for a temporary stay from the ban taking effect, arguing that the state's Board of Medicine had failed to show sufficient evidence that the video conferencing system poses a risk to women's health. Romano added that she found it "peculiar" that the board would seek to end abortion video conferencing and no other telemedicine practices in the state.

"With respect to the lack of an in-person meeting, it is peculiar, as petitioners point out, that the board would mandate this for abortion services and not any other telemedicine practices in Iowa," she wrote, according to the Des Moines Register.

The Iowa Board of Medicine's Executive Director Mark Bowden told the Associated Press that Romano's ruling is not beneficial to improving the health and safety of Iowa's women. "The board believes that a physician must establish an appropriate physician-patient relationship prior to the provision of a medical abortion," he said in a statement on behalf of the board, according to AP. "The physician's in-person medical interview and physical examination of the patient are essential to establishing that relationship."

Romano said in a brief statement to the Des Moines Register that she is not surprised by The Family Leader's claims, and that she understands "the issue the case deals with is a volatile issue."

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