Iowa’s Wide-Ranging Anti-Choice Bills Include Telemedicine Abortion Ban

Anti-choice lawmakers in Iowa, after a relatively quiet year in 2014, appear to be preparing for an active 2015 legislative session.

Anti-choice lawmakers in Iowa, after a relatively quiet year in 2014, appear to be preparing for an active 2015 legislative session. Shutterstock

Anti-choice lawmakers in Iowa, after a relatively quiet year in 2014, appear to be preparing for an active 2015 legislative session. A collection of anti-choice bills that would restrict reproductive rights in a number of ways have been filed for the current legislative session, including one that would end the practice of telemedicine abortion.

SF 12, introduced by state Sen. David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan), is an omnibus anti-choice bill that would take myriad steps in restricting access to abortion.

The bill would mandate that a woman seeking abortion care wait 72 hours after her first visit to a provider, have an ultrasound, and undergo forced counseling with state-published materials prior to having the abortion.

Johnson defended the legislation when previously interviewed by Rewire. “I’ve seen data from other states that show that there are women who, given the time to further consider options like adoption or the option—and I want to emphasize option—of seeing an ultrasound, that that woman might carry that unborn child to term,” Johnson said, though he was unable to recall where that data had come from, adding, “I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of that.”

SF 12 also creates more bureaucratic requirements for abortion providers. The bill would require physicians who provide abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where the abortions are performed.

The bill includes a provision that says a woman who is more than 22 weeks pregnant must be provided medically inaccurate information on fetal pain before physicians perform an abortion.

Johnson has also introduced SF 11, which would ban the use of telemedicine to provide abortion care. The bill prohibits dispensing abortion-inducing drugs by anyone other than a physician and would require that the physician comply with all federal regulations relating to abortion-inducing drugs.

SF 11 is identical to a bill filed during the 2013 legislative session, HF 173.

Bills banning the use of telemedicine for abortion care have been introduced by lawmakers in several states over the past few years. Telemedicine is widely used to serve areas where access to abortion and other forms of health care is limited, such as rural communities.

While lawmakers like Johnson say they do not oppose telemedicine in practice, they claim its use for abortion care is “dangerous” because “a physician is not present physically.”

Other lawmakers have made similar statements while defending legislation to ban telemedicine abortion care in states including Arkansas, Iowa, and Louisiana. These statements stand in contrast to the statements and policies of health-care organizations.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that medical abortion can be provided “safely and effectively via telemedicine with a high level of patient satisfaction” and has been shown to reduce instances of second-trimester abortions.

Ibis Reproductive Health has concluded that “restricting telemedicine for medication abortion is not evidence based, and limits women’s access to high-quality abortion care, particularly in rural areas.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Bill Anderson (R-Pierson) introduced SF 44, which bans so-called sex-selective abortions. The bill would require a physician to certify that an abortion is not being performed because of the sex or gender of the fetus.

There is no evidence that sex-selection abortions are a widespread phenomenon in the United States. Proponents of the bans often justify them by using cultural stereotypes that target immigrant women of color.

Under the legislation, civil action could be taken by the patient seeking an abortion and her spouse against the physician who performs the procedure. The bill would also prohibit any criminal penalty from being imposed against the patient receiving the abortion.

The legislation is supported by the Iowa Right to Life Committee, the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, and the Iowa Catholic Conference, according to reporting by the Iowa Statesman.

A report from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum found that such bans target and “thus [limit] reproductive health access for Asian American and Pacific Islander women.”

SF 55, introduced by state Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), would prohibit health insurance plans, purchased through the state’s health-care exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, from funding plans that include coverage for abortion care. The bill includes an exemption for plans that cover abortion care if a woman’s life is threatened due to pregnancy.

SF 55 is similar to a bill filed during the 2014 legislative session, HF 2096.

State Rep. Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls) introduced HF 58, which would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo a forced ultrasound. It is similar to one of the provisions in SF 12.

Anti-choice legislation has a favorable path through the state house, where Republicans hold a 56-43 majority. However, Democrats maintain a 26-24 majority in the state senate.