Abortion Drug Distributed Via Telemedicine - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Abortion Drug Distributed Via Telemedicine

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A unique method of providing abortions has the state of Iowa in the spotlight. Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa are the only clinics across the country to provide medication to end early pregnancies via teleconferencing or a video link. Now other clinics around the nation are looking to do the same.

It's not your typical doctor's visit. A woman choosing a medication abortion sits down in front of a computer screen and talks with a doctor who might be more than a hundred miles away.

"Hi Angie. My name is Dr. Tom Ross. How are you doing?"

Dr. Tom Ross of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is talking with a patient in Bettendorf from his location in Des Moines. He says this method is all about access and making abortions available in rural locations.

"The reality is access to abortion care often involves having to have reliable transportation, making a long trip-- several hours in some cases one way," Dr. Ross explains.

"Prior to telemedicine, if you were a patient in Northwest Iowa, you would have to travel to Sioux City or Des Moines," Angela Axdahl of Planned Parenthood adds.

Now patients stay much closer to home. Just like they would at a regular appointment, they still talk with a nurse on-site first. They're counseled about all their options, educated on abortions and given an ultrasound.

Once that's complete, their visit with the doctor via video link is brief. They discuss any concerns and then with the click of a mouse, the doctor opens a locked drawer that dispenses a drug used to end a pregnancy up to 9 weeks. The patient takes the first pill there and then leaves.

Critics say it's a process that doesn't seem safe.

"Anytime you're given a pill to take such as Mifeprex they need to have medical supervision and many of these women are being given the pill and they're going home and being told they can naturally abort at home. It's not an emotionally healthy situation number one, but certainly not a physically healthy one," Vicki Tyler of Women's Choice Center of the Quad Cities says.

Doctor Ross doesn't agree. "Follow-up remains the same as it would be if I was seeing someone in person and giving them the pill. I think it's important to stress that. I feel this is very safe and our patients get very good care.

Doctors at Planned Parenthood tell us they're seeing a shift to more patients choosing medication abortions. The Iowa clinics have provided 1,500 via video link since 2008.