In Nebraska, state Senators voted 38-9 yesterday on a bill banning the use of telemedicine to provide women with abortion services. The bill requires that a doctor be physically present with the patient when she takes mifepristone, also known as RU-486 or the abortion pill, to induce an abortion. The bill has already passed the Nebraska House and Governor Dave Heineman (R) is expected to sign it into law.
The bill aims to prevent Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from replicating its Iowa program, which enables mifepristone to be administered to patients while videoconferencing with their doctors in 16, in Nebraska. By using telemedicine, Planned Parenthood aims to provide women living in remote and rural areas of with greater access to abortion services.
Under current Iowa law, in order for a woman to receive mifepristone via videoconference, she must first go to her local Planned Parenthood and undergo the required physical exam, blood test, medical history report, ultrasound, and counseling session, all administered in-person by a nurse. Women must also watch an eight-minute video describing the procedure and all possible side effects. If the woman decides to continue with the process, the doctor then clicks a button on his computer that releases a drawer containing the medicine in front of the patient. Still in the company of the clinic nurse, the patient then takes the mifepristone with her doctor watching and receives the follow-up drug, misoprostol, to take later.