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Published On: Mon, Jun 22nd, 2015

Thomas More Society objects to Iowa Supeme Court allowing ‘webcam abortions’

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that women in Iowa may secure medical abortion pills without an in-person examination by a physician. The Thomas More Society argued via amicus (friend of the court) brief that webcam abortions should be banned in the state.

At the same time, the Court rejected the contention that the Iowa Constitution provides a broader right to abortion than the United States Constitution, stating that both protect a “woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy to the same extent.”

There is nothing in the Iowa Constitution mentioning abortion and at the time of its ratification, abortion was consistently prohibited.

“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.

Participants in the "March for life" walk along Concord Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee,  photo Michael Stansberry via wikimedia commons

Participants in the “March for life” walk along Concord Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee, photo Michael Stansberry via wikimedia commons

A webcam (or telemed) abortion is a procedure where a woman gets a chemical abortion when there is no doctor physically present. The patient consults with the doctor via webcam and the doctor remotely activates a drawer that opens to provide the woman with abortion drugs, such as the RU 486 pill.

“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.”

The Iowa Supreme Court held that the standard of medical practice required by the physicians of the Board of Medicine “would make it more challenging for many women” who wish to have an abortion. Therefore, the Court determined the rule was unconstitutional because it placed an undue burden on the right to an abortion.

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.”

About the Thomas More Society

Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm that exists to restore respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court. www.thomasmoresociety.org

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