In Iowa, opponents are attacking from every angle in their attempts to restrict a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, with their latest attempts targeting the delivery of medication abortion via telemedicine.
Medication abortion has been safe and legal in the U.S. for over a decade, and it gives a woman the option of a more private and less invasive method of ending a pregnancy, in a setting in which she feels most comfortable. People in rural areas often have to drive very long distances to see a doctor in person and Iowa is a perfect example of this. Health care centers, particularly in these areas, increasingly use telemedicine services for patients to receive quality medical care. The process for a medication abortion delivered through telemedicine is just as safe and effective as the process of an in-person meeting with a doctor. A woman’s counseling, exam and medical history are all completed in-person, and a medical professional is in the room with her when she takes the first dose of medication. .
Of course, none of these facts matter to women’s health opponents. Last year, after Iowa Governor Terry Branstad stacked the Board of Medicine with appointees who oppose safe and legal abortion, the board voted to enact a rule that bans Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s telemedicine delivery system for medication abortion. Planned Parenthood challenged the ban, and a judge temporarily blocked it, stating in her ruling that “the Court strains to understand how decreasing the number of apparently effective and safe abortion services offered to Iowa women pending the resolution of this case supports to the public’s interest in receiving ‘adequate’ healthcare. If anything, the opposite is true.” That case is still ongoing.
Unfortunately, the court’s ruling was not the end of the attacks. Yesterday, anti-women’s health politicians in Iowa, voted on a bill to ban the provision of medication abortion via telemedicine, which passed the House but we predict die in the Senate. If enacted, the legislation would reduce the number of health centers that provide abortion by 80 percent.
Today abortion is available to Iowa women at 15 health centers across the state. If it was illegal to provide medication abortion via telemedicine, abortion would only be available to women at one health center in Des Moines and two health centers in Iowa City. The politicians pushing for this extreme measure weren’t even shy about their true motives. The author of the bill, Rep Matt Windschitl, chilling statement said it all: “If I could stop all abortion in this state, I would.” Politicians in Iowa can try all they want to virtually eliminate access to safe and legal abortion for thousands of Iowa women, but we will continue to fight to protect their health and constitutional rights.