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Republicans want vote on telemedicine abortion ban

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm •  Published: March 17, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republicans in the Iowa Senate want legislative leaders to revive a measure that would ban the remote distribution of abortion-inducing drugs.

The bill cleared the Republican-majority House, 55-42, but has been declared dead since the Democratic-controlled Senate didn't take action prior to last week's legislative deadline. In a news conference Monday, minority Republicans called on leaders in the Senate to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.

"We believe, with the help of leadership from both parties, that we can bring this to the floor," said Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan.

The measure would prohibit the use of webcams or teleconferencing as a means of dispensing abortion pills to patients in remote locations. Instead, women seeking an abortion would have to be in the presence of a physician when receiving the drugs.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said in a statement that such a measure would mean refusing health care to rural Iowans.

"I'm disappointed Iowa Republicans have launched a new front in the national so-called war on women by opposing affordable, safe access to health care for rural Iowans," he said.

But Sen. Nancy Boettger, R-Harlan, said the Republican effort "is not a war on women. It's for women."

The Iowa Board of Medicine adopted rules last summer regarding the administration of abortion drugs, which were set to go into effect in November. These rules do not explicitly mention telecommunication services, but require the physical presence of a physician.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which provides abortion pills at 12 remote locations throughout Iowa, challenged the regulations, and a judge ruled the organization could keep using video conferencing to distribute the drugs until the matter is resolved by the courts.

Johnson said legislative action is needed to affirm what the Board of Medicine deems good practice. He said banning the remote distribution of abortion pills would not interfere with other applications of telemedicine.

"If they begin to degrade our humanity, that's where we believe the state should step in and do what it can," he said.

The likelihood of revival remains unclear.