Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina submitted an amendment to an appropriations bill on Tuesday to ensure that federal funding being invested in telemedicine services can not be used by reproductive health centers like Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa have tested a program that allows pregnant women to remotely consult with a qualified physician about the abortion drug mifepristone, commonly known as RU-486. The drug can only be prescribed by specially licensed physicians.
Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa sneeringly labelled the practice “robo-abortion” and submitted an amendment to the Agriculture appropriations bill in June to block “telemedicine for the robo-abortions.”
DeMint submitted the same amendment to the Senate version of the legislation.
The reproductive rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America said the amendment would have profoundly negative effects on women’s health.
“What about a woman experiencing a high-risk pregnancy who is talking with her doctor through video conferencing?” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement.
“Under Sen. DeMint’s extreme plan, if abortion came up in that doctor-patient conversation, the woman and her physician would have to go to a separate communications system. He’s calling for an abortion-only version of Skype. It is impractical, ridiculous, and, most importantly, bad for women in rural or remote areas who would not be able to discuss the full set of options with their doctor.”
A recently published study found virtual abortion counseling was just as effective and acceptable to patients as a face-to-face office visit. Women who received remote counseling had no more complications than those who had office visits.