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Iowa Planned Parenthood Makes Mifepristone More Accessible

Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa have introduced a program that enables mifepristone, also known as RU-486 or the “abortion pill,” to be administered to patients while videoconferencing with their doctors, reports the New York Times. Mifepristone is a drug intended to terminate a pregnancy in its early stages. Planned Parenthood’s use of videoconferencing to provide medical resources, a practice known as telemedicine, is designed to provide women living in remote and rural areas of Iowa with abortion services. The current law in Iowa requires a licensed physician to be present for the administration of mifepristone, making it difficult for women lacking access to a doctor who perform abortions to obtain the drug. 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, describes the Times. According to9News women must also watch an eight minute video describing the procedure and all possible side effects. The physician and patient are then afforded the opportunity to discuss the method through online video. If the two decide to continue with the process, the doctor then clicks a button on his computer which 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. Planned Parenthood has being using telemedicine to provide mifepristone to patients in Iowa since 2008, performing some 1,500 procedures, reports the Times. So far there have been no serious complications resulting from this method. While Iowa Planned Parenthood clinics are the only places who have utilized videoconferencing, clinics around the country are reportedly looking to replicate the process. In May, the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue filled a formal complaint with the Iowa State Board of Medicine, according to the Times. The group argued that the video method did not meet the state law requiring medical doctors be present for the administration of the pill. Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said his group heard about Planned Parenthood’s system through an anonymous tip, reported 9News. According to Newman, his organization is offering a $25,000 reward to anyone who provides information that results in the legal conviction of an abortion provider. The State Board of Medicine has not announced what action it intends to take in reaction to the complaint.

Sources:

New York Times 6/8/10; 9News 6/9/10

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