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.”
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