Iowa Supreme Court Building Photo credit: Ctjf83 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Iowa Supreme Court Building Photo credit: Ctjf83 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Iowa Supreme Court Building
Photo credit: Ctjf83 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

(Des Moines, IA) The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday to strike down an Iowa Board of Medicine ban on “webcam” abortions, in which women are provided with abortion-inducing drugs without any in-person examination by a licensed physician.

In August 2014, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland appealed a trial court’s decision to uphold the ban. ADF filed a friend-of-the-court brief  with the Iowa Supreme Court in November 2014 on behalf of pro-life advocates in support of affirming the trial court’s decision. Sixteen other states have enacted similar bans.

“Women’s health should never take a backseat to irresponsible practices like Planned Parenthood’s lucrative ‘webcam’ abortion scheme, which endangers lives,” said ADF Senior Counsel Michael J. Norton. “We wish the Iowa Supreme Court would have affirmed the lower court’s decision, which simply upheld the Iowa Board of Medicine’s common-sense rules and adopted the same protections for pregnant women that exist in 16 other states.”“Planned Parenthood and other abortionists must be held to basic medical standards of care,” said ADF Legal Counsel Natalie Decker,” and little is more basic than an in-person examination by a physician before a procedure that poses serious health risks.”

ADF filed the brief in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Iowa Board of Medicine on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Donna J. Harrison, M.D.; Iowa Right to Life; and Susan Thayer, a former director of an Iowa Planned Parenthood facility who resigned her position rather than perform “webcam” abortions. ADF attorneys also represent Thayer in a separate lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of the Heartland that accuses the abortion giant of healthcare fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Opponents of the procedure say there is ample medical evidence that these abortions are unsafe. The FDA has documented 2,207 adverse events in the U.S. of women who have had medical abortions, including 14 deaths, 612 hospitalizations, 339 cases where blood loss was so great the woman needed a transfusion, 256 infections and 58 ectopic pregnancies.  Women who died from medical abortions died from a bacterial infection like toxic shock, hemorrhaging to death, ruptured ectopic pregnancy and massive heart attack.

Also in recent years, polling done by both the Des Moines Register and the University of Iowa showed more than 66% of Iowans are against webcam abortions.

“We are certainly devastated by the decision by the Iowa Supreme Court, but absolutely will not relent in our pursuit of seeing all lives, born and unborn protected to the fullest extent,” stated Jenifer Bowen, Executive Director of Iowa Right to Life.

“Obviously, as the largest Pro-Life organization in Iowa, it would be correct to say that we believe in the sanctity of life of the unborn, but we are equally concerned for the safety of born women,” Bowen added.  “Tragically, for Iowa women and unborn babies, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against both today.”

“Regardless of one’s position on abortion, everyone should agree that Planned Parenthood should not be allowed to jeopardize women’s lives by disregarding established medical protocols,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Regrettably, the court’s decision allows abortionists to defy basic medical standards that are meant to put women’s safety first.”

“It’s extremely disappointing that our judiciary would strike down a rule that ensured women received the standard of care they deserved before undergoing a significant medical procedure,” Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaumann said in a released statement.

Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society expressed concern over this Iowa precedent. “The Iowa Supreme Court has approved a dangerous medical practice banned by sixteen other states,” he said. “There is a grave danger that telemed abortion may be assumed by abortion activists to render obsolete their need for on-site abortion providers across the country, greatly increasing the health risks for women who undergo medical abortions in remote areas.”

“It’s unfortunate that our judges have put politics ahead of women’s health and safety. Our legislature and governor will continue working to ensure both women and our unborn children are given the care and consideration they deserve,” Iowa GOP Co-Chair Cody Hoefert stated.

“We are deeply disappointed in the ruling,” said Matthew Heffron, who pointed out that 16 states have make active decisions to ban these “online” abortions.  Heffron is a Thomas More Society-Omaha attorney and co-author of the amicus brief  filed on behalf of the Catholic Medical Associations of Des Moines and the Quad Cities, Iowans for Life, and Women’s Choice Center in the Quad Cities. These organizations supported the Iowa Board of Medicine decision to ban webcam abortion which triggered the lawsuit by Planned Parenthood, in Planned Parenthood v. Iowa Board of Medicine.

“The Iowa legislature committed to the Iowa Board of Medicine, consisting primarily of physicians, the authority to establish a minimum standard of care for the medical profession,” explained Heffron. “The Board of Medicine considered all the evidence presented to it at public hearings and determined that the taking of abortion-inducing drugs require a physician’s presence.”  Part of the evidence considered by the Board, although not commented on by the Court, was that the abortion-inducing drug involved, RU 486, had caused 14 deaths, 612 hospitalizations, 2,207 adverse events, and came with severe FDA warnings.  “However,” Heffron added, “the Court ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood’s claims, based on speculation, that the Board’s rule would make it difficult, although not impossible, for certain women to have abortions.”

Though it struck down the webcam abortion ban, the court upheld the board’s requirement that the parents of a minor be notified before undergoing a webcam abortion.

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