A lawyer in Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s office was reportedly given advance notice that anti-choice advocates were launching a new effort to end the state’s telemedicine abortion program, leading some pro-choice activists to wonder how involved the governor’s office has been in the effort.
According to documents obtained by the Des Moines Register, the governor’s legal counsel, Brenna Findley, received an email a week before Iowa Right to Life announced it would submit a petition to the medical board about ending telemed abortions in Iowa from Jenny Condon, the executive director of a local crisis pregnancy center and an outspoken telemed abortion opponent. “Attached are the signature pages of medical professionals on board with this petition,” wrote Condon in the email. “Let me know if I can do anything else. I could get more signatures but in this short of time I think these are a good start.” Copied on the email were the executive directors of Iowa Right to Life and the Iowa Catholic Conference.
Condon said that the note was a “heads up” and that although she and Findley had spoken in the past about their “concerns” about the program, Findley did not know about the petition before she received Condon’s email.
Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said she believes there is more of a connection. “The communication between the governor’s office and anti-abortion activists confirms that there has been a synchronized effort to acquire a vote outlawing Planned Parenthood’s telemedicine delivery system based entirely on politics rather than scientific fact,” June told the Register. “Even more concerning is that the governor’s office is trying to hide their involvement by passing off this ideological position as a health concern from medical professionals.”
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The board voted 8 to 2 on June 28 to initiate the state’s rulemaking process, a 60-day period for public comment before an actual ban can be considered—this despite concerns by some board members, as well as lawyers for the board and from the state attorney general’s office, that the board was moving too quickly. Findley, who was in attendance at that meeting, advised the board to proceed without delay.
Abortion opponents have long tried to ban the practice of telemed abortion. They claim that because patients do not need to be in the physical presence of a prescribing doctor when abortion-inducing medication is ingested, telemed abortions circumvent state guidelines.
A public hearing on the state’s telemed abortion practices is set for August 28.