“When it comes to health care, politics should never trump medicine,” says Planned Parenthood.
June 19, 2015 (DES MOINES, IA) – Today, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on the side of Iowa women and protected access to safe and legal abortion in the state. Had it gone into effect, the 2013 rule imposed by the Iowa Board of Medicine would have ended access to safe, legal abortion outside of three cities in Iowa –forcing many women to take multiple trips of up to 400 miles round trip to access safe, legal abortion. More than one-third of Iowans live in rural areas.
The court ruled that a regulation banning the provision of medication abortion through telemedicine violates the Iowa Constitution and is not based in medicine, writing: “ … the telemedicine rule would make it more challenging for many women who wish to exercise their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy in Iowa to do so.”
"This ruling is a big victory for Iowa women. This unanimous ruling says that a state cannot single out abortion with a different set of rules that don't apply to any other health care procedure, and that a state cannot prevent women from accessing safe, legal abortion,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Similar restrictions and bans on abortion are being pushed through in other states, and this ruling sends a strong and clear message to politicians across the country. Restrictions and bans on abortion are unconstitutional and deeply unpopular, and we will continue to fight them in every state in this country."
“We applaud the court for ruling to protect women’s access to safe, legal abortion. Medical experts opposed this law because it harms women by blocking access to safe medical care. When it comes to health care, politics should never trump medicine,” said Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had urged the court to block this rule, writing that the ban is: “not justified by any medical evidence” and “undermines its own stated purpose ‘to protect the health and safety of Iowans.’” It would “result in immediate and significant harm to Iowa women’s health, dramatically curtailing their access to safe healthcare and unnecessarily exposing them to increased risk of serious clinical complications and other health risks.”
Planned Parenthood’s telemedicine protocols have been demonstrated to be just as safe, effective and satisfactory to patients as their in-person protocols, and to have decreased the incidence of second trimester abortions by enabling women to access care earlier in their pregnancy. A woman receiving care at a health center via telemedicine is counseled and examined in person by medical professionals who also are present while she interacts with a physician via video technology and then, under the physician’s observation, takes the first medication.
The ban was initially adopted by the Iowa Board of Medicine, over the objection of the Iowa Medical Society and based on a petition orchestrated by groups opposed to all safe and legal abortion. A different composition of the Board evaluated Planned Parenthood’s telemedicine delivery system in 2010, and concluded that it was safe and consistent with prevailing standards of care. The governor then replaced the entire board and, in August 2013, the new board reversed the former board’s decision. “[T]his was a political decision and not a decision based on medical science, even though it’s been touted as that,” said Dr. John Olds, who formerly served on the board and currently acts as an advisor to the body. Indeed, the Iowa Supreme Court echoed this statement, writing in today’s decision: “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Board’s medical concerns about telemedicine are selectively limited to abortion."