Roundup: Web-cams Increase Abortion Access in Iowa

Beth Saunders

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has been using telemedicine to increase access to abortion in Iowa, much to the consternation of Operation Rescue.

Web-cams aren’t just for chatting anymore. Women in rural areas of Iowa now have better access to early abortion care, thanks to a telemedicine program by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.  

Small Planned Parenthood clinics around Iowa are using a remote-control pill-dispensing system to make abortions available in areas where few doctors offer them.

The first-in-the-nation system allows a Planned Parenthood physician from Des Moines to visit with each patient by videoconference, then press a computer button to open a drawer in front of the patient, who could be seated up to 190 miles away. The patient then reaches into the drawer and withdraws the abortion pills.

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Planned Parenthood says its doctors meet that requirement when they dispense the abortion drugs by remote control, then watch via a secure communications system as their patients take the first dose of medication.

Dr. Tom Ross, a Planned Parenthood physician who uses the system, said he fulfills his legal obligation to oversee the abortion process.

“I do. Yes, sir. Absolutely,” he said. He’s confident the state medical board will approve of the system, which private lawyers vetted.


Watch how the doctor/patient interaction takes place.

Of course, the high-tech health care is not without it’s critics. (Oh, hello Troy Newman!)

Troy Newman, national president of Operation Rescue, said his group learned about the Planned Parenthood system via an anonymous tip. He said Operation Rescue receives many tips because it has offered a $25,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of abortion providers.

The group is trumpeting the fact that the Iowa Board of Medicine is investigating the matter. But the board’s executive director, Mark Bowden, said his agency’s response to Operation Rescue’s concerns does not imply any wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.

“The board sends out notices to anyone who files a complaint, telling them that we got the complaint and we’re looking into it,” he said. Only about 7 percent of complaints to the board result in formal sanctions, he said.

Although, apparently, the system is nothing new. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland says it has been using the telemedicine system for two years, and about 1,500 women have used it to obtain an early abortion.

With 86% of counties in the United States lacking an abortion provider, telemedicine may be one answer for women in rural areas to get the treatment they need in a timely manner, without the unnecessary burden of traveling hundreds of miles to see a provider in person.

Mini-roundup: The eradication of small-pox, which led to its vaccine being eliminated from standard vaccination schedules, may have caused the HIV virus to blossom. According to researchers, “the smallpox vaccine appeared to cut HIV replication five-fold.”

May 18

Protesters Want Crist To Veto Abortion Bill – CBS 4

Groups On Both Sides Seek Clues About Kagan’s Views On Abortion Rights – New York News Today

A womanist culture of life – Washington Post (blog)

Nun excommunicated, loses hospital post over decision on abortion – The Catholic Review

Iowa Abortion Pill Controversy – KIMT

Kagan papers emerge amid questions on abortion – The Associated Press

Defunding Attacks Inspire Increase in Donations to Indiana Planned Parenthood – Conducive Chronicle

Senate backs ultrasound requirement for abortions – WXVT

The Sexual Manifesto: The Pull-Out Method – The San Francisco Appeal

Bristol Palin to hit the paid lecture circuit, speaking about teen pregnancy – Washington Post (blog)

The Pill turns 50. – Sonoma State Star

50 years of the pill –

Smallpox demise link to HIV boom – BBC News

Did the Eradication of Smallpox Accidentally Help the Spread of HIV? – Discover Magazine (blog)

Kenya youths ready for HIV vaccine – Daily Nation

Antigay Indiana congressman resigns after affair –

Eradication of smallpox may have set the stage for HIV pandemic, study says – Los Angeles Times (blog)

Malawian men who tried to marry face 14 years in prison – Independent

Smallpox vaccine ‘helped fight HIV’ – Independent

Bristol Palin to Earn Big Bucks on Speaker Circuit – People Magazine

Dads Get Postpartum Depression Just Like Moms, Study Finds – BusinessWeek

Postpartum depression hits as many dads as moms – USA Today

Poor sleep ups risk of postpartum depression – Ottawa Citizen

Cheating Congressman Mark Souder Once Lectured My Father on the Evils of Sex – Vanity Fair

Black babies more often screened for drug exposure – Reuters

Would you go listen to a teen mother’s talk? If she’s Bristol Palin? – St. Louis Post-Dispatch (blog)

May 19

States opting out of abortion plans – BP News

Head Nun Reassigned for Abortion Recommendation –

Liberals swing abortion wedge at Josée Verner – Globe and Mail

Hébert: No public appetite for abortion ban – Toronto Star

GOP gubernatorial candidates make pitches – Clovis News Journal

Phoenix Catholic doctors back bishop’s stand on Catholic hospital abortion – Catholic Culture

Pregnancy no longer a burden – Jakarta Post

Pill altered women’s lives – Press & Sun-Bulletin

HIV rates among Asian men ‘alarming’ – Democratic Voice of Burma

Pledge to stop mother-to-baby HIV spread – BBC News

Cervical cancer jab gets parental nod – Irish Independent

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.