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Medical board sets ground rules for hearing on video-conferencing method of dispensing abortion pills

August 28, 2013 | Telepresence Options

clinic telemedicine

Image by Think Progress

Story by Tony Leys / Des Moines Register

State regulators plan to spend up to three-and-a-half hours Wednesday listening to public opinions about a controversial video-conferencing system used to dispense abortion pills.

The Iowa Board of Medicine�released ground rules�today for its hearing on the Planned Parenthood system. The hearing is set to begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the auditorium of the Wallace State Office Building in Des Moines. The proceedings will alternate between speakers who support or oppose the system. Officials plan to set a time limit of three to five minutes. People who want to speak will be asked to sign up at a table outside the auditorium.

The hearing involves proposed limits on a video-conferencing system being operated by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. The system, the first of its kind in the nation, allows doctors in Des Moines to interact via closed-circuit video with patients in rural clinics across the state. Staff members at the rural clinics perform sonograms and other medical tests, which the doctor views. If the patient qualifies for the abortion pills, the doctor enters a computer command that opens a drawer in front of the woman. The patient takes the first pill as the doctor watches, then goes home and takes other pills that induce a miscarriage.

Proponents say the system provides a safe way for women to receive early-term abortions in rural areas where no other clinics provide them. Opponents say the system exposes women to potentially dangerous drugs without having a doctor readily available to help them deal with side-effects.

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