Medical regulators for the state of Iowa announced yesterday that they will not punish a Planned Parenthood doctor for prescribing mifepristone, also known as RU-486 or the abortion pill, remotely through telemedicine. Last year, Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group, filled a formal complaint with the Iowa State Board of Medicine arguing that the video method did not meet the state law requiring medical doctors be present for the administration of the pill.
Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa introduced a program that enables mifepristone, a drug intended to terminate a pregnancy in its early stages, to be administered to patients while videoconferencing with their doctors. This practice, known as telemedicine, is designed to provide women living in remote and rural areas of Iowa with abortion services.
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.