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August 29th, 2013

Planned Parenthood Chairman Refuses to Answer Questions at Webcam Abortion Hearing

A three and a half hour long hearing on webcam abortions provided plenty of drama on Wednesday, as pro-life and pro-abortion activists stated their case during a public hearing. Much of that drama did not reflect well on Planned Parenthood and its representatives.

The Iowa Board of Medicine called for the hearing to discuss banning the practice of tele-med, or webcam, abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which includes clinics throughout Iowa, began the practice in 2008. A petition sent to the Board of Medicine by 14 Iowa doctors asked them to look into the long distance abortions and decide whether or not to ban them.

Tele-med abortions are performed via a webcam conversation between a Planned Parenthood doctor and a pregnant woman. They are often hundreds of miles apart. The doctor pushes a button and a drawer opens, providing an abortifacient to the patient. She takes one pill at the clinic and another later at home. This method induces a miscarriage. Critics of the method say it is dangerous for the woman, since she is not cared for by an in-person physician.

Around 30 speakers, split fairly evenly on both sides, stated their case during the hearing. The most heated discussion of the day ensued between Iowa Board of Medicine member Dr. Robert Bender and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Chairman Robert Shaw.

Bender noted that a previous speaker, former Planned Parenthood nurse Todd Buchacker, mentioned that physical examinations of patients at the clinics were sometimes done by CMAs (certified medical assistants).

Dr. Bender noted that CMAs are not qualified to perform these examinations. Bender grilled Chairman Shaw about this practice and asked if Shaw, also a physician, ever relied on CMAs to perform physicals in his private practice. Shaw repeatedly refused to answer. In doing so, he appeared evasive and clearly came out of the exchange looking worse.

You can view the entire back and forth here:

It would appear that Planned Parenthood’s speakers at the hearing accidentally opened up a whole can of worms they did not intend to. Bender says their reliance on CMAs, instead of licensed doctors, is a dangerous practice that violates the basic tenets of standard care.

“The basis of medicine is the history and physical,” Dr. Bender told after the meeting. “If you came to my office and I had a CMA come in and examine you, come out, tell me his opinion, and I said, ‘Oh, give him this’, and you left, that’s not good medicine. I don’t know who can argue with that. I think one of our colleagues here asked me when I said that if I’m going to argue with the American College of OB-GYN, well, if they say a history and physical isn’t necessary, then yes, I will argue with them.”

Sue Thayer, who worked at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Storm Lake, testified that she would be required to perform ultrasounds, although she was not qualified to do so. Thayer also stated that when the organization began providing webcam abortions, they wanted to “establish a new standard of care without anyone knowing about it.”

Iowa Right to Life Executive Director Jenifer Bowen attended the entire hearing and was pleased with a lot of what she heard, but realizes the battle to ban webcam abortions is not over.

“I was cautiously optimistic going into this. I still am cautiously optimistic,” Bowen said. “The more that the Iowa Board of Medicine asks questions, the more concerned

they became. It wasn’t just the webcam abortions that started to unravel. Issues were raised about how performs ultrasounds, and are they qualified. One person testifies that it’s RNs doing exams and another testifies that sometime’s it’s a CMA. So, I think in a lot of ways, the more Planned Parenthood revealed, the worse it got for them.”

Iowa Board of Medicine Chairman, Dr. Greg Hoverstein, said the board will take its time and consider all of the input from today’s hearing, as well as written statements and other evidence before making a decision on whether or not to ban webcam abortions. Iowa Right to Life has tried to ban webcams via the legislative process, but has been unable to do so.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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