Iowa is a fairly large state with a lot of small towns and not much in the way of family planning clinics: only 26 Planned Parenthood outlets in a state of over 3 million citizens.
But women in rural Iowa, like women everywhere, need access to safe abortions. Enter The Magick of the Internets! Through video teleconferencing, doctors can consult with women in the earliest stages of pregnancy remotely and then prescribe doses of mifepristone and misoprostol to cause a medical abortion.
Cue the misogynist hand-wringers, including Troy Newman, of Operation Rescue (the Fetus, Forget the Woman):
“And think about it: With this scheme, one abortionist sitting in his pajamas at home could literally do thousands of abortions a week. This is about expanding their abortion base.”
I’m thinking about it, Mr. Newman, and I’m thinking it’s fantastic. More women, getting the abortions they need and want before an invasive surgical procedure is needed? Fewer children being born to women/families that don’t want or can’t care for them? That’s a wonderful thing.
Newman claims that his concern is the health of the women, but that’s not anything we haven’t heard before from the forced-birth advocates: we must protect women because abortion is always emotionally devastating, abortion makes you sterile, abortion gives you cancer. Lies, all. And there have been no serious complications in any of the 1500 medical abortions that have been authorized since the middle of 2008.
It’s important that these women are receiving actual medical care, of course. And that is exactly what’s happening. It’s not like women are texting a doctor somewhere “OMG AM TOTES PG! HALP,” and being FedEx’d a syringe full of hydrochloric acid. There’s a procedure:
Before the videoconference begins, a patient in a distant clinic meets (in person) with a nurse. There, blood tests, a medical history, an exam, an ultrasound and counseling on matters like what to expect from the procedure and plans for a follow-up exam are completed. The results are shared (by computer) with a doctor miles away, and the doctor and the patient (at all times accompanied by the nurse, who sits beside her) meet by videoconference over a private network.
I’ve lived in Iowa, and other small midwestern burgs where access to family planning materials and services wasn’t always easy to get. The idea that I could get my abortion without taking days off work, without spending money I don’t have to travel and lodge myself, and without waiting any longer than necessary? That’s a straight-up blessing. My gratitude to Jill June, head of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, who came up with the idea, and made it happen.
Thanks also to reader Adara for pointing out the New York Times story.