Iowa Board of Medicine adopts rule prohibiting webcam abortions
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
A new rule was adopted on Aug. 30 with an 8 to 2 vote by the Iowa Medicine Board which would in effect prohibit webcam abortions.
The rule would require a physician to be physically present with the woman while abortion drugs are being provided, rather than pushing a button following a remote video consultation. The rule is set to become effective Nov. 6.
“Basically, they established a new standard of practice for physicians in Iowa,” said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC). “From our perspective, we don’t support any abortion, whether it is done in person or not, but this is better in the sense that we believe, if you are going to have abortions, it is important to keep the safety and informed consent of the women involved among the biggest concern.”
Chapman added this will be safer for the women involved.
“It’s a good thing, a wise thing,” said Dr. Paul Matthews, a parishioner at Holy Family in Emmetsburg and a member of the Family Life Advisory Board for the diocese. “If you look at it from pro-life verses pro-culture of death perspective, on paper it looks like the right thing to do. Also looking at it from a medical standpoint, it is pretty unprecedented.”
There might be telemedicine used with mental health patients, Dr. Matthews said, but this “is unprecedented that the treatment is rendered by the doctor over the internet without the doctor even examining the patient, in what sounds like most cases.
“I honestly believe that is why the board made the decision they made,” he continued. “It was based on medical issues and not on whether it is a life or not or a baby or not. It is sad in this day and age that it can’t be part of the discussion or the fact that it isn’t the crux of the discussion. There definitely is medical precedent.
There is good medical rationale for not allowing this kind of thing. I think it was a wise decision.”
A webcam abortion, Chapman explained, is a chemical abortion.
“If a woman goes to Planned Parenthood, for example, and is interested in an abortion where they offer this, what they would do is have a video consultation between the physician and the woman,” he said. “The woman would have some sort of medical exam at the remote location, then she has the discussion with the doctor. The doctor then pushes a button and the abortion medication comes out.”
Chapman pointed out that this could happen on the same day that a woman finds out she is pregnant. One pill is taken at the time, which “basically kills the baby. The second pill is taken at home, a day or two later, and that expels the baby.”
“When they pass an administrative rule like this, it goes through a legislative committee probably in October,” said the ICC executive director. “All that they would do is delay it, but we don’t expect that to happen.
Assuming everything keeps on track, it should officially take effect Nov. 6. The big question is if the abortion industry will decide to challenge it in court. I think that’s likely.”
Dr. Matthews noted that there are not as many abortionists as there once were, in part due to the social stigma.
“It (abortion) is a relatively gynecologic procedure in terms of what you undertake physically as a physician,” he said. “The whole push was the rural medicine issue. There are so many women out there who need to have abortions that can’t get access to care, so I think that was part of the impetus for it – finding more ways to keep the business going. Webcam abortions afford them to do that.”
The doctor said generally a physician will talk to a patient and examine her body to make a decision about the issue. With a webcam abortion, that isn’t happening.
“This wouldn’t be tolerated in any other part of medicine,” said Dr. Matthews.
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