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Planned Parenthood Loses ‘Telemedicine Abortion’ Ban Suit

An Iowa law barring doctors from remotely dispensing pregnancy-ending drugs withstood Planned Parenthood’s claim that it would impose a hardship on women living far from abortion providers.

The decision by Polk County District Judge Jeffrey Farrell in Des Moines upholds an Iowa Board of Medicine rule requiring physicians to be present and to perform a physical examination before drugs are dispensed. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Inc. claimed the restriction would compel women to travel farther to obtain abortions, leading to delays and a potential increase in illegal abortions.

Farrell said the board had a legitimate basis for its measure. “The board did not dispute that the rule would result in medical abortions being conducted in fewer locations,” he said in a decision made public today. “Rather, it responded by finding that all women in Iowa should be entitled to the same high level of health care.”

The rule is one of several adopted by states seeking to curb the frequency of abortions. Courts have struck down North Dakota and Arkansas measures intended to shorten the time in which a woman may undergo the procedure, while challenges are pending to laws affecting clinics in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Wisconsin.

The Iowa measure takes aim at “telemedicine abortions,” in which doctors prescribed the drugs Mifeprex and misoprostol to women pregnant for 63 days or less, after a video-consultation and verification of their medical status, according to a complaint filed last year.

Limited Access

Planned Parenthood said it would appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

“Politicians are imposing restrictions on abortion that will take safe and legal abortion away from women living in parts of the country where access to health care is already very limited,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

Mark Bowden, a spokesman for the state medicine board, said the agency is pleased with the decision.

“The Board considers a thorough medical history and physical examination to be the cornerstone of good medical care,” he said of a rule that also requires a follow-up appointment to confirm the termination of the pregnancy.

The case is Planned Parenthood of Heartland Inc. v. Iowa Board of Medicine, 05771CVCV046429, Polk County, Iowa, District Court (Des Moines).

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