The Birth and Death of Iowa Web-Cam Abortions

Last week the Iowa Board of Medicine voted 8-2 to establish a standard of care for abortions which prohibits web-cam abortions in Iowa. This historic action comes after thousands of deaths of unborn children in Iowa using web-cams since Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) instituted a web-cam pilot program in July of 2008.

According to Sue Thayer, who ran a PPH clinic in Storm Lake, Iowa, the use of web-cams increases the PP abortion business substantially. Here’s how it worked in Iowa. The abortionist is situated in Des Moines, Iowa. A woman seeking an RU 486 chemical abortion, who is in a different city, talks to the abortionist over a web-cam teleconferencing system. The abortionist uses a computer mouse to remotely unlock a drawer at the woman’s location which contains the dangerous RU 486 abortion pills. The woman is not physically examined by a physician, creating a dangerous situation for her.

A 2011 report by the FDA listed more than 2,200 “adverse events” associated with the use of the two drug RU486 abortion regimen. In the United States, 14 women died over a 10 year period and women were hospitalized with ruptured ectopic pregnancies, blood loss requiring transfusions and infections.

A contentious hearing was held before the Board made its decision. According to an article in the Des Moines Register, a local pediatrician (Robert Shaw), who is member of the PPH board, was repeatedly asked if “he had ever relied on a a certified medical assistant to perform an initial patient examination….Shaw refused to answer the question, however, arguing that his personal medical experience was irrelevant to questions over the standard of care provided in telemedicine abortions.” This is called ducking the question.

The ripple effect of the Iowa Board of Medicine decision cannot be understated. Iowa was the testing ground for a novel procedure intended to migrate to other states and dramatically increase the number of abortions. The Iowa experience was instrumental in Wisconsin Right to Life’s successful push to outlaw web-cam abortions in Wisconsin. Fortunately for women and unborn children, Iowa’s action means that other states will be very hesitant to begin this risky business.

Barbara Lyons

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