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Backers Of Idaho Abortion Bill Say 'Webcam Abortions' Pose Danger To Women

Dr. Julie Madsen testifies against a bill on abortion medication at the Idaho House State Affairs Committee.
Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network
Dr. Julie Madsen testifies against a bill on abortion medication at the Idaho House State Affairs Committee.

Idaho lawmakers are moving ahead with a bill that would set legal requirements for doctors who prescribe abortion-inducing medication.

Proponents of the measure said it would stop what they called “webcam abortions” from coming to Idaho. Anti-abortion groups warned that doctors could prescribe drugs like RU-486 over video conferencing without knowing the extent of a patient’s pregnancy and leave her to deal with the results at home.

Their bill would require physicians do an in-person exam, and to take measures to ensure emergency care and a follow-up with the patient. Doctors who don’t could face lawsuits or prosecution.

Critics of the bill called it a solution without a problem. Emergency physician Julie Madsen said physical exams are already standard.

“And I can tell you that most of what is done routinely in a telemedicine setting, including many of the decisions I made via telemedicine are much riskier than chemical abortion,” she said.

A representative of Planned Parenthood -- one of two abortion providers in Idaho -- told the House State Affairs Committee they don’t prescribe abortion drugs through telemedicine in Idaho and don’t have plans to.

The bill was sent to the full House on a 13-4 party-line vote. Several Republican lawmakers said they were casting their vote based on their anti-abortion principles.

“Other than the case of rape or incest, a person has taken willingly upon themselves the responsibility to nurture another life,” Rep. Ken Andrus said. “I think as legislators then we have that responsibility to protect that life in the best way we know how.”

Proponents of the bill cited Planned Parenthood’s use of video conferencing in Iowa to prescribe pregnancy-ending drugs. That state’s Board of Medicine voted to ban the practice. Justices on the Iowa Supreme Court have allowed telemedicine abortions to continue while it considers the case.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

Jessica Robinson
Jessica Robinson reported for four years from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho as the network's Inland Northwest Correspondent. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covered the economic, demographic and environmental trends that have shaped places east of the Cascades. Jessica left the Northwest News Network in 2015 for a move to Norway.