Suspension of Telemed Abortion Ban Puts Iowa Women at Risk

Nora Sullivan, M.P.A  

Last week an Iowa district court agreed to temporarily suspend the ban on tele-med abortions, allowing abortion mega-provider Planned Parenthood to continue to distribute abortion inducing drugs while the organization challenges the ban on the practice in court.


The ban was scheduled to go into effect last Wednesday and had been approved by the Iowa Board of Medicine in August.


The new state requirements would necessitate that a physician be physically present in the room with a patient when the abortion inducing drugs are administered.  The law would most particularly affect Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, who requested the temporary suspension of the ban.  The ban would prevent Planned Parenthood’s doctors, who are primarily located in Des Moines, from using teleconferencing to administer abortion drugs to patients in rural areas.


Polk County District Judge Karen Romano said the Iowa Board of Medicine had not supplied evidence that the tele-med abortion system was unsafe or had negatively impacted patient health.


“While the court acknowledges the board’s expertise in regulating the provision of medical care in Iowa, the court is not entirely persuaded that (the board’s proposed ban) achieves its goal in ensuring the safe and healthy administration of health care services,” Romano wrote in her 16-page opinion.


Judge Romano added that the ban could delay a woman’s ability to have a chemical abortion or force a woman to have a surgical abortion.


Iowa Board of Medicine Executive Director Mark Bowden stated, “The court’s decision to stay implementation of the rule perpetuates what the board believes is inadequate health care and treatment for Iowans who seek medical abortions.”


The suspension of the ban comes only months after the release of information concerning another death caused by the use of abortion drugs mifepristone (also known as RU-486) and misoprostol.  The July 2013 issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology detailed the case of the 31-year-old British woman who died as a result of an aggressive infection incurred due to the termination of her pregnancy through abortion drugs.


The tragic series of events, which took place in 2010, began when the young woman was prescribed the regimen of drugs to end her pregnancy.  She was also prescribed an antibiotic to protect against possible infection in the days following the abortion and advised to come in for a follow up appointment to check for bleeding and infection.


A month later, the woman was admitted to the hospital due to abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding. An ultrasound revealed that so fetal tissue had been left inside the uterus but the woman’s condition continued to worsen and she began to show signs of sepsis.  Surgery was performed to find the cause, but no intra-abdominal or pelvic sepsis could be found.  28 hours after being admitted to the hospital, suffered cardiac arrest and died.


An autopsy revealed that the cause of the young woman’s death was the result of a Clostridium septicum infection.  According to the case report, the postmortem examination revealed inflammation and abscess formation in the uterus at the site of the patient’s chemical abortion. Bleeding and dilation of the cervix promoted by misoprostol during a medically induced abortion can allow the passage of bacteria to ascend into the uterus that can lead to an infection of the endometrium- potentially resulting in the onset of sepsis and, in some cases, death.


This tragic case demonstrates that even in cases where abortion inducing drugs are administered in person- by medical professionals- they carry serious risk.  Additionally, this tragedy makes it apparent that follow-up care is clearly necessary. For abortion inducing drugs to continue to be administered to via webcam shows a serious disregard for their health and safety.  It should be hoped that this ban will be quickly reinstated for the health and protection of Iowa women.


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