Iowa medical regulators disappointed pro-life advocates by ruling not to sanction a doctor for remotely prescribing abortion pills to patients in rural areas.
The state Board of Medicine decided not to sanction Planned Parenthood doctor Susan Haskell for prescribing abortion-inducing drugs to patients in rural areas. The decision was especially disheartening for pro-life organization Operation Rescue. The group had filed the complaint to the board.
"This decision has done nothing to alleviate our concerns about the legality of this push-button abortion pill scheme that denies women access to physical examinations by licensed physicians and leaves them to deal with the painful multi-day abortion process at home without access to a licensed physician in the event of emergencies," said Operation Rescue Senior Policy Advisor Cheryl Sullenger.
Iowa Board of Medicine Executive Director Mark Bowden said the group reached its decision after a full review. However, Bowden told reporters that he and other members of the board cannot speak publically about complaints unless they lead to formal charges.
The trend of remotely prescribing chemical-abortion pill is called tele-abortion. The method uses advances in telecommunications to allow doctor who is physically miles away to video conference with clinic patients, and, with the press of a button, remotely administer an abortion drug.
Iowa's Planned Parenthood of the Heartland began servicing patients in the early stages of pregnancy through tele-abortion in 2008. Since then, 2,000 women have utilized the service offered inside its clinics.
According to Operation Rescue, Planned Parenthood plans to expand the use to tele-med abortions to all Planned Parenthood clinics within the next five years. An undated letter from Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa posted on the pro-life operation's website indicates that expansion will begin with clinics in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque.
Operation Rescue believes remote abortions are illegal. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, it says, violates U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocols by prescribing the abortion pill, also known as RU 486 or mifepristone, without follow up through the ninth week of pregnancy. That is two weeks beyond what the FDA has determined should be the upper limits of use.
It further alleges that the group violates the Iowa law that says abortions must be done by a licensed physician.
"This totally strips away the doctor-patient relationship and is a perversion of the very concept of tele-medicine, which was never meant to replace hands-on examinations by physicians," said Sullenger.
Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton also believes that it is inappropriate for clinics to utilize tele-medicine to administer abortions. He is working to prevent tele-abortions from coming to his state. He has pledged to introduce legislation against tele-medicine abortions this year.
Operation Rescue expressed grave disappointment in the state medical board's decision and stressed that Iowa women should be better protected.
"Women deserve better protections than what they are currently afforded. If the people at the Medical Board can't or won't do their jobs and provide those protections, then they should resign immediately, and make way for people who can," said Sullenger.