September 16, 2014 (DES MOINES, IA) – Today, the Iowa Supreme Court blocked a dangerous rule that would have ended access to safe, legal abortion in all areas of the state outside Des Moines and Iowa City. This rule—imposed by the Board of Medicine after it was stacked with appointees by a governor who actively opposes safe and legal abortion—would force women in rural and medically underserved areas to drive up to more than 500 miles round-trip, multiple times, to receive care. As Planned Parenthood’s lawyers showed, this would delay or prevent many Iowa women from accessing this care. The rule will remain blocked while Planned Parenthood’s appeal proceeds.
The rule would ban telehealth delivery of medication abortion, over the objection of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (“ACOG”) and other medical experts, and even though Planned Parenthood’s telehealth protocols have been demonstrated to be just as safe, effective, and satisfactory to patients as their in-person protocols. A woman receiving care at a health center via telehealth is counseled and examined in person by medical professionals, who also are present while she interacts with a physician via video technology and then, under the physician’s observation, takes the first medication.
ACOG urged the court to block this rule, writing that the ban is: “not justified by any medical evidence” and “undermines its own stated purpose ‘to protect the health and safety of Iowans.’” It would “result in immediate and significant harm to Iowa women’s health, dramatically curtailing their access to safe healthcare and unnecessarily exposing them to increased risk of serious clinical complications and other health risks.”
“This ruling is a victory for Iowa women,” said Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “We all want to protect patient safety—this rule doesn’t do that, which is why it’s opposed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical experts. We are pleased the court has recognized that women would be harmed by this rule--—particularly women in rural and medically underserved areas. All women in Iowa deserve access to health care, no matter what zip code they live in.”
In August, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court after a state district court upheld the rule. Had the Iowa Supreme Court not acted, the rule would have gone into effect tomorrow.
The Iowa Board of Medicine evaluated Planned Parenthood’s telehealth delivery system in 2010, and concluded that it was safe and consistent with prevailing standards of care. The governor then replaced the entire board and, in August 2013, the new board reversed the former board’s decision. “[T]his was a political decision and not a decision based on medical science, even though it’s been touted as that,” said Dr. John Olds, who formerly served on the board and currently acts as an advisor to the body. In September 2013, Planned Parenthood filed a petition for judicial review of the board’s vote in state court and also asked the court to block the rule’s enforcement during the review.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has served women and men of all ages since the 1930s. Today the agency offers a full range of quality reproductive health care services to residents in Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and eastern Oklahoma through 19 health centers plus Education Resource Centers in Des Moines, Lincoln and Omaha.
September 17, 2014