DES MOINES (AP) — A lawyer for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland asked a judge Wednesday to temporarily stop a state ban on the organization's use of a video conferencing system to distribute abortion-inducing pills in rural areas of Iowa.
The Des Moines Register reports that lawyer Sharon Malheiro told Judge Karen Romano on Wednesday the rule taking effect Nov. 6 would cause many women to lose local abortion services.
"The sole purpose of the rule is to prevent women in rural areas of Iowa from receiving timely access to a medical procedure that is safe, effective and no different than similar telemedicines that continue to be permitted," Malheiro said.
Planned Parenthood sought a temporary stay on the ban, which the Iowa Board of Medicine approved in August. The group wants the judge to then consider permanently overturning the board's action.
The system allows Planned Parenthood to offer abortion-inducing pills at clinics in remote locations where the organization doesn't have doctors who can meet with patients in person. Instead, a doctor, typically based in Des Moines, talks with the women using an Internet video system before giving them the drugs, one dose to be taken at the office, the other at home.
Assistant Attorney General Julie Bussanmas said Planned Parenthood could still offer abortion pills at its clinics as long as physicians are on hand to personally meet with patients.
Malheiro said the purpose of the video conferencing system was to provide abortion services to women in rural areas where few doctors are willing to provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood supporters have argued the board's ban reflected members' opposition to abortion. They have noted that Gov. Terry Branstad, who opposes abortion rights, had named all 10 board members in recent years.
Bussanmas denied the board made its decision based off members' views on abortion.
"There's been no evidence that any board member was motivated by any improper motive," she said.
Bussanmas also argued the judge should deny Planned Parenthood's request because the organization didn't file a written request that the board put a stay on its rule while court action was pending. A Planned Parenthood lawyer stood up and sought a stay during a medical board meeting, but Bussanmas said a written request is required.
Romano said she would issue a ruling on the request for a stay by Tuesday.
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