News Abortion

Iowa House Passes Telemedicine Abortion Ban

Teddy Wilson

The bill's house passage comes three months after an Iowa judge blocked from going into effect a state medical board rule that would have banned the practice.

On Tuesday, the Iowa house passed a bill that would ban so-called telemedicine abortions in the state in a 55-42 vote, mostly along party lines.

The bill’s house passage comes three months after an Iowa judge blocked from going into effect a state medical board rule that would have banned the practice.

Filed by state Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley), HF 2175 would ban the dispensing of medication to terminate a pregnancy “via telecommunications technology.” Abortion providers use telemedicine to provide women who do not live near a provider, many of them in rural areas, access to medication abortion. A physician in a remote location sees and communicates with a patient using video conferencing tools, and the medication is provided at a local clinic.

Erin Davison-Rippey, a Planned Parenthood of the Heartland policy analyst and lobbyist, told Rewire that that telemedicine abortion is safe and effective and expands access to health care for a woman who would otherwise have to travel long distances to see a clinician face-to-face. The same medical protocols used when delivering medication abortion in person are used during telemedicine procedures, she said.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“Since 2008, more than 5,000 Iowa women have accessed medication abortion delivered through telemedicine, with zero serious complications reported,” said Davison-Rippey. “The bottom line is, HF 2175 only makes it more difficult for a woman to access safe, legal care, and every woman deserves to have access to safe health care, regardless of her zip code.”

Anti-choice and conservative organizations have been lobbying to pass HF 2175 during this session. The Iowa Catholic Conference, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Iowa Right to Life Committee, and the Family Leader all support the legislation.

Organizations that oppose the bill include the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the League of Women Voters of Iowa, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the Family Planning Council of Iowa, and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

The bill has been introduced and referred to the Senate Human Resources Committee, but with Democrats in control of the senate it will be difficult for Republicans to pass.

When asked about the bill by The Gazette, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) said, “We’re going to continue protect women’s rights to effective health care in the state of Iowa.”

News Law and Policy

California Ballot Initiative Pushes for ‘Personhood’—Again

Nicole Knight Shine

The proposed constitutional amendment would "extend constitutional protections of due process and equal protection to all fertilized human eggs.”

A California anti-choice group has proposed a ballot initiative to categorize a fertilized human egg as a person, a measure that could essentially criminalize abortion in the Golden State as well as ban several types of contraception.

The constitutional amendment would “extend constitutional protections of due process and equal protection to all fertilized human eggs,” according to the California secretary of state’s description of the measure.

The proposed initiative is backed by the California Civil Rights Foundation, a Union City-based group with an advisory board that includes anti-choice advocates Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, and Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action.

Initiative sponsor Walter B. Hoye, who filed the measure with the state attorney general’s office October 1, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In media reports, Hoye has stated his opposition to abortion and cited the high rate of the procedure in the Black community. Such statistics are often used as a ploy to dismantle reproductive rights under the guise of racial justice, as Rewire has reported.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The proposed initiative needs 585,407 signatures to make it onto the November ballot.

Similar measures in California in the past have failed to secure enough signatures, including an identical initiative by Hoye and others last year.

Republican lawmakers in other states have latched onto the notion of defining life as beginning at fertilization—a concept commonly called “personhood”—and introduced a slew of bills in 2015.

The push has met with little success. Personhood measures introduced this year in IowaColorado, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington have stalled in legislative committees.

A Montana bill backing a ballot measure similar to the constitutional amendment proposed in California also died in committee.

Some of the bills, such as Iowa’s failed measure, included exceptions to decriminalize accidental death or in cases where contraception was administered “before a clinically diagnosable pregnancy,” as Rewire has reported. The language submitted to the California attorney general for the proposed initiative makes no exceptions:

The term “PERSON,” as it is applied to all living human beings, applies to all living human beings from the beginning of their biological development as human beings (i.e., human organism), regardless of the means by which he or she was procreated, method of reproduction, age, race, sex, gender, physical well-being, function, size, level of development, environment, and/or degree of physical or mental dependency and/or disability.

The language also opens the door for “personhood” protections on zygotes formed through in vitro fertilization.

News Abortion

Idaho GOP’s Telemedicine Abortion Ban Challenged in Court

Nicole Knight Shine

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court challenges Republican-imposed restrictions on prescribing abortion-inducing pills via telemedicine.

Planned Parenthood is suing the state of Idaho over new laws that introduce roadblocks to abortion access by barring providers from prescribing abortion inducing pills via telemedicine.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise on Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of two state laws passed by Idaho’s Republican-majority legislature and signed by Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in April.

The Telehealth Access Act authorizes providers to prescribe medications during a video conference with a patient, but carves out an exception for the pills taken to induce an abortion—what’s known as a medication abortion. A second law, HB 154, amended the Idaho constitution to require a physician to examine a patient in person before a medication abortion, effectively restricting abortion access in a state in which many counties are rural.

Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, called the bills bad health policy.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“Women in Idaho deserve the right to have access to the safest, highest quality health care—these misguided laws do just the opposite by creating unnecessary hurdles to safe and legal abortion that are not grounded in science, but instead rooted in politics,” Charbonneau said in a statement.

Todd Dvorak, spokesman for the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, told Rewire on Tuesday that the office does not comment on pending litigation.

Eighteen states require a physician to be physically present when a patient takes abortion-inducing medication, according to the Guttmacher Institute, restrictions that make it impossible to prescribe the pills through telemedicine. Research suggests that it’s equally safe for patients to take the two pills used in a medication abortion at home or in a clinic—and women may prefer the comfort of home.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a telemedicine ban in June that had required doctors to see abortion patients in person, following a suit by Planned Parenthood. The Iowa Board of Health in 2010 determined that Planned Parenthood’s telemedicine practice was safe and consistent with prevailing standards of care.

“There is no medical justification for carving out this one exclusion for prescribing medicine to patients in Idaho,” Hannah Brass Greer, Idaho legislative director and public affairs manager at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in a statement. “The constitution does not allow the legislature to pass laws that burden women’s access to abortion when those laws do not advance the health and safety of women.”