Polk County District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell has upheld the Iowa Board of Medicine’s ban on “webcam” abortions as dangerous to women’s health. “Planned Parenthood’s claim that drug-induced abortion is ‘exceptionally safe’ is spectacularly inaccurate,” said Matthew Heffron, a Nebraska attorney working for the Thomas More Society - a pro-life law firm. Heffron is the author of an amicus brief that was utilized by the court. “Medical evidence overwhelmingly supports the Iowa Board of Medicine’s decision, which Judge Farrell has upheld, to prohibit webcam abortions. Drug-induced abortions have caused numerous complications threatening the health and lives of women, and these complications are exacerbated when a doctor is not physically present for the procedure.”
The Thomas More Society had contributed to the proceedings by testifying against webcam abortions in 2010 and again in 2013 before the Iowa Board of Medicine. Additionally, the firm's attorneys submitted an amicus brief to the District Court and sent substantial legal research memos on constitutional and historical issues to the Attorney General, defending the ban as constitutional and fully lawful.
In August, 2013, the Iowa Board of Medicine voted 8-2 that a physician must be physically present when administering abortion drugs, rather than operating from a remote location to provide the drugs for an abortion after only a video consultation. The new rule prohibited the practice of webcam abortions, which allowed a woman to take abortion-inducing drugs without being physically examined by a doctor before or after the procedure. Planned Parenthood in Iowa appealed the ruling, alleging that drug-induced abortions are “exceptionally safe.”
Thomas More Society’s amicus brief, which Planned Parenthood addressed in a reply brief, argued that, contrary to Planned Parenthood’s claims, drug-induced abortions are unduly dangerous to women’s health. The brief prepared by the Thomas More Society cited warnings of the Food and Drug Administration, “the federal agency charged with testing the abortion-inducing drugs at issue, that the ‘possible and reasonably likely side effects’ of the abortion-inducing drug include ‘cramping, bleeding, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, back pain, and tiredness,’” on top of Prescribing Information to the effect that “prolonged heavy bleeding and bacterial infection may also occur.”
Tracing the history of abortion prohibitions in Iowa, attorneys Matthew Heffron and Christine Delgado of the Thomas More Society also submitted research to Iowa’s Attorney General proving that "the Medical Board’s ban is both constitutionally sound and in keeping with Iowa’s history of extensive regulation of abortion in the interest of women’s safety," according to a statement from the firm.
“Omitting physical exams for abortion patients heightens the risk of complications from an already dangerous procedure,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. “We applaud Judge Farrell’s excellent ruling to uphold the ban against risky webcam abortions and thus to protect Iowa women.”
Read Judge Farrell’s ruling here.
Read Thomas More Society amicus brief here.
Read Iowa Board of Medicine’s statement regulating webcam abortions here.