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Entries in Abortion (14)

Friday
Jan182013

Abortion Still Debated 40 Years After Roe v. Wade

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which was handed down on Jan 22, 1973, comes as states have added more and more restrictions -- 43 state laws passed last year and 92 passed in 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a group that does extensive research on abortion.

Just three weeks ago, Texas defunded all Planned Parenthood clinics in the state -- many of which do not perform abortions -- for being affiliated with an organization that advocates them.

One in three women will undergo an abortion by the time she is 45 years old, according to the Guttmacher Institute.  Almost half of them are married or living with their significant other, and 73 percent of them are affiliated with a religion.

Americans United for Life released its annual "Life List" this week, celebrating states with the most restrictions on abortion as being the most protective of human life.  The nonprofit named Louisiana as America's "most protected" state and Washington as its "least protected."

A law passed last summer in Louisiana now requires women to wait 24 hours between the time they undergo mandatory ultrasounds and the time they can have abortion procedures.  This law also requires that the fetal heartbeat be made audible unless the woman specifically requests otherwise.  Unless the woman is a victim of rape, and has reported it, she must listen to a description of the ultrasound.

Organizations like Americans United for Life are not alone in their mission "to defend human life from conception to natural death."  Twenty-nine percent of registered voters would like the Supreme Court to completely overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a Pew Research Center survey released on Jan 16.  But the number is shrinking.  In 1992, 34 percent of people opposed legal abortion.

Dr. John Coppes, a physician in Minnesota who preferred not to say where he works because his views are his own, said he personally can't bring himself to perform abortions because of his faith.  However, he said he would never try to impose that view on a patient or on other doctors.

Coppes said he performed abortions during his residency, but he did not feel right about them.  When he became a Christian later on, he said, he decided that life is sacred, so he could not perform abortions or make referrals for them.

"All you have to do is an ultrasound at five and six weeks and see a heart beating," he said.  "You can see there's somebody in there who has a higher value."

He said he doesn't want to speak for or antagonize anyone else, adding that just because abortion is wrong for him, doesn't mean he expects everyone to agree with him.  He said he would prefer if women didn't get abortions, but he would never stand outside a clinic and yell at them.

"That's not how you do it," he said.  "You do it through love.  You try to help her.  You try to help the child.  You don't yell and scream."

But there's a fine line between protecting the unborn and taking away women's rights, said the authors of a paper published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law this month.  The paper, "Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States," found 413 cases from 1973 through 2005 in which a fetus was legally regarded as separate from the mother at the expense of the mother's "liberty."

They found that a 26-year-old Louisiana woman spent almost a year behind bars for second-degree murder of her fetus.  She was released when doctors were able to prove that the fetus was no more than 15 weeks old, and that she miscarried because her doctor gave her a birth control injection 12 weeks prior to the miscarriage, according to a paper published Jan. 15 in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov272012

Nebraska Right to Life Group Pushes for Ultrasound Images on State Website

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LINCOLN, Neb.) -- The anti-abortion group Nebraska Right to Life is pushing for the passage of legislation in the state that would require that so-called 4-D ultrasound images of an unborn fetus be posted on a Nebraska state website.

The state of Kansas already shows these types of ultrasound images — which are highly detailed and show more lifelike images than earlier ultrasounds — on its Health Department website under its “Woman’s Right to Know” law.  The push in Nebraska was first reported by the Lincoln Journal Star.

Nebraska law already requires that a woman receive an ultrasound before having an abortion in the state, and that a doctor display the images on a screen so that the woman can see them easily. LB 675, known as the “Mother’s Right to See Her Unborn Child Ultrasound Bill,” passed the Nebraska state legislature in 2009 by a margin of 4 to 5. This new legislation would go a step further by requiring that the images be placed online as well.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Nebraska Right to Life has been in contact with Kansas for Life, the group that helped champion the passage of Kansas’ law requiring 4-D images on a state website.

Requests for comment from Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the division of Planned Parenthood that covers Nebraska, were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov152012

Ireland Probes Death of Miscarrying Woman Seeking Abortion

PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A 31-year-old woman is dead after doctors in Ireland reportedly refused to give her an abortion as she languished in pain from an ongoing miscarriage.

Even as medically necessary abortions remain a contentious topic on this side of the Atlantic, doctors in the United States said the death was preventable.

"I don't do abortions, I'll tell you right now. ... But I'd have to tell the mother, 'Your baby doesn't have a chance and to save your life, I have to do this,'" said Dr. John Coppes, the medical director at Austin Medical Center-Mayo Health System in Minnesota.

Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway in Ireland, complaining of back pain, her husband told the Irish Times.  Doctors told Halappanavar she was miscarrying.

A day into her hospital stay, Halappanavar asked doctors to terminate the pregnancy because she was in "agony," her water had broken and she was shivering and vomiting.  However, they said they couldn't perform the operation if a fetal heartbeat was present because Ireland is a "Catholic country," Halappanavar's husband, told the Irish Times.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland unless a woman's life is in danger if she continues her pregnancy.

In the United States, a Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, made abortion safe and legal in 1973, but the abortion debate has continued to find its way into political discussions, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declaring himself a "pro-life president" in October after telling an Iowa newspaper he would not legislate on abortion if he won.

During a debate last month, Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said medical advances have eliminated the need to perform abortions to save ailing mothers' lives.  He quickly backtracked on the statements.

At the Galway University Hospital, Halappanavar's fetal heartbeat stopped nearly three days after she arrived on Oct. 21.  Doctors evacuated Halappanavar's uterus, but she died of septicemia, or blood poisoning, on Oct. 28, according the Irish Times, which cited the autopsy report.

The Galway Roscommon University Hospitals Group confirmed Halappanavar was a pregnant patient who died in its care.  It released a statement extending its sympathies to Halappanavar's husband and explaining that it would be reviewing the "unexpected death" as per the national incident management policy of Ireland's public health care provider, called Health Service Executive, or HSE.

"The process of incident review seeks to ascertain the facts relating to the incident, draw conclusions and make recommendations in relation to any steps that may need to be taken to prevent a similar incident occurring again," HSE said in a statement, adding that it will seek an external obstetrician to join its team of investigators.

Coppes, who has never met Halappanavar, said that when a woman's water, or amniotic sac, breaks during early pregnancy, she is at risk for infection because the barrier between the baby and the outside world is broken.  The fetus' environment is also no longer sterile, putting it at risk for "horrible malformations."

Coppes said the fact that Halappanavar's husband reported she was ill and vomiting suggested a serious infection had set in, and it's possible that it spread to her blood, resulting in the septicemia that killed her.

When an infection occurs in a pregnant woman's uterus, Dr. Kimberly Gecsi, an obstetrician at University Hospitals in Cleveland, said the only way to treat it is to terminate the pregnancy.

"Antibiotics are part of the process, but once an infection develops inside the uterus, antibiotics alone aren't going to treat the infection," Gecsi said.  "The infection will continue until the products of pregnancy are removed, either by natural procedure or with surgical procedure."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug212012

Teen at Center of Abortion Debate Dies After Chemo Delay

Comstock/Thinkstock(SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic) -- A pregnant 16-year-old in the Dominican Republic took center stage in the abortion debate when she died last Friday of leukemia complications amid reports that doctors had delayed chemotherapy out of fear that it could terminate her pregnancy. The Dominican Republic has a strict anti-abortion law.

But the young woman's doctor at Semma Hospital in Santo Domingo told ABC News that the hospital had postponed chemotherapy not because of the country's abortion ban but because they were waiting for her bone marrow test results to come back from a hospital in New Jersey to determine what kind of leukemia she had.

The young woman, whose name has not been released, was admitted to the hospital on July 2, Dr. Tony Cabrera told ABC News. She told doctors she'd missed her period, and they immediately gave her a blood test and pelvic sonogram to determine she was pregnant.

Since chemotherapy interrupts tumor progression by halting the rapid division of cancer cells, "it's likely to also have an adverse effect on a rapidly dividing organism, such as an embryo," said Christina Chambers, at the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists' Collaborative Research Center in San Diego.

Dr. Lauren Streicher, an obstetrician at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago, said doctors practicing in the United States generally recommend that cancer patients requiring chemotherapy terminate their pregnancies in their first trimester, "given the limitation of information about what generally happens at 10 weeks."

The young woman's mother, Rosa Hernandez, had urged doctors to give her daughter an abortion so she could undergo chemotherapy immediately, according to CNN, but Article 37 of the Dominican Republic's constitution prohibits abortion, claiming "the right to life is inviolable from conception until death." The doctors did not perform an abortion.

"My daughter's life is first. I know that [abortion] is a sin and that it goes against the law...but my daughter's health is first," Hernandez told CNN in July.

Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, an archbishop in Santo Domingo, spoke out about the case after a Mass in late July, saying that a "direct abortion" was wrong, but "everything possible" should be done to save the life of this young woman, according to the news organization Dominican Today.

"Her situation can be saved, but we don't agree with performing an abortion directly," Rodriguez said.

Once the doctors received the test results from the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center in Morristown, N.J., they learned their patient had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which Cabrera said had a "very poor prognosis," especially for children more than 10 years old. (For its part, the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center has not confirmed that it ever processed these tests.)

The doctors started chemotherapy when the young woman was nine weeks' pregnant, just as her first trimester was ending, in late July, Cabrera said.

Speaking generally, said Dr. Brian Druker, an oncologist at the Oregon Health and Science University, a short delay in administering chemotherapy should not in itself drastically affect a patient's outcome.

"A delay of a couple of weeks should have no bearing on the outcome unless there was a complication that made someone's medical condition less able to handle therapy," said Druker.

But last Thursday night, the young patient had begun to cough up blood and was moved to the intensive care unit, where she was placed on a respirator, Cabrera said. She also had vaginal bleeding and severe respiratory distress.

She underwent a blood transfusion, but by 2 a.m. Friday, she'd miscarried, Cabrera said. A few hours later, she went into cardiac arrest. Doctors were able to revive her, but she died at 8 a.m. Friday.

Death was attributed to hypovolemic shock (not enough blood or fluid), alveolar hemorrhage, acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Cabrera said.

After her daughter's death, Hernandez told CNN, "They have killed me. I'm dead, dead. I'm nothing....She was the reason for my existence. I no longer live. Rosa has died. Let the world know that Rosa is dead."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb052012

Political Analysts Say Planned Parenthood Debate ‘Poisonous’

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The debate this week over funding between the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood shows the “corrupt nature that’s happened in politics” is now impacting private groups, according to ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd.

“This is a corrupt, poisonous part of democracy at work,” Dowd said on the This Week roundtable of the backlash that followed after the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it was removing funding for mammogram screenings from Planned Parenthood -– before reversing course after a vocal outcry.

“A private foundation can give and dispense money any way it wants,” Dowd added. “I think foundations should be able to make a decision, and if Planned Parenthood wants to go out and raise the money” they lost from the Komen Foundation, they can do so.

AOL Huffington Post Media president Arianna Huffington said the debate showed “social media at work” as supporters of Planned Parenthood galvanized support online.

“This was about women’s health. This was an attempt to politicize it,” Huffington said. “So the attempt to politicize this issue backfired, and people said this is not a left-right issue.”

George Will disputed that idea, saying “This is not about women’s health. This is about providing 300,000 abortions a year. Planned Parenthood cleverly cast this to say we are in the mammogram business. They’re not in the mammogram business.”

“All these people describing themselves as pro-choice said it is illegitimate to choose not to be involved in abortion,” Will added.

Will said the Obama administration’s requirement for Catholic hospitals and other institutions to provide insurance policies that cover contraception services was a greater threat.

Catholic churches protested that requirement at Sunday services last week, reading letters written by church leaders saying the policy infringed on religious freedom.

“On the political side, in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, particularly, there are lots of blue-collar Catholics who hear this as more bullying,” Will said.

Dowd, who serves on the board of a Catholic hospital in Austin, Texas, agreed that it was an issue of government overreach.

“I think people that run these institutions and are in these services think…why is the federal government doing this, when we’re providing all this care,” Dowd said. “Why is big government getting involved in our business, which we know what to do?”

But Huffington said it was about making contraception available to those who work at Catholic institutions, including non-Catholics who do not oppose contraception.

“The churches are not going to be affected,” Huffington said. “We’re talking about Catholic hospitals that employ a lot of non-Catholics.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan102012

Teen Girl Fights Family Abortion Plan

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) -- A pregnant Texas teenager has gone to court to stop her family from pressuring her into an abortion.

The high school freshman, who does not want to be named, lives in Corpus Christi with her adult cousins, whom her attorney Stephen Casey says hit her, prevented her from going to school, and threatened her repeatedly.

"One family member threw her into the car, on her stomach, and said, 'I'm going to beat you until you decide otherwise,'" Casey told ABC News.

In court documents obtained by ABC News, the 14-year-old alleges that her cousins and grandmother scheduled an appointment at the Coastal Birth Control Center to terminate the pregnancy against her will. The girl's grandmother, Carmen Pantoja, says the allegations against her family are false. Pantoja says she suggested an abortion, but never tried to force her to have one.

"I advised her to have it. That's not the same as forcing her," Pantoja said, "If I had forced her, I would have paid for it and I didn't pay for nothing. Nobody forced her do anything."

The teenager's attorney says this case is about protecting the young girl's reproductive rights.

"We want her protected. We want her to be able to assert her rights without any heavy brush back that's going to affect her and her unborn child, physically and emotionally," Casey said.

Casey is part of the Texas Center for the Defense of Life, a consortium of pro-life attorneys which has fought cases like this before. In October 2010, the group represented a 16-year-old whose parents tried to convince their daughter to have an abortion, bringing her to clinics on two occasions. The center helped the girl win a court order in Travis County Texas District Court that her parents signed, agreeing to stop any attempt to terminate her pregnancy. Baby Leah was born last spring.

The 14-year old girl in this latest case secretly contacted the group through text message when she was seven weeks pregnant. Now at 10 weeks, she is living with the family of the father of her unborn child. Casey says both teenagers agree that she should carry the baby to term, but have not decided what happens after that.

State District Judge Missy Medary has appointed a guardian for the teen and granted two temporary injunctions barring the girl's family members from coercing her in her reproductive decisions until a Jan. 19 hearing. At that time, the judge will decide whether to extend that injunction through the rest of the teen's pregnancy.

Pantoja says she has accepted her granddaughter's decision to keep the child.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Dec312011

Maryland Abortion Doctors Accused of Murder

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- Two doctors who performed late term abortions in Maryland have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder.

Officials say it's an unusual use of a law that allows for murder charges in the death of a viable fetus. The investigation began in 2010 after what authorities say was a botched procedure at Dr. Steven Brigham's clinic.

This may mark the first case in the United States where an abortion provider has been charged with murder in connection with the death of a fetus.

Prosecutors say that doctors conspired to kill viable fetuses. They say after a botched abortion tipped them off, the search of an abortion clinic yielded a freezer containing numerous late term fetuses.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec022011

Woman Charged with Self-Abortion After Fetus Found in Trash

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York City police charged a 20-year-old woman with first-degree self-abortion after she allegedly terminated her pregnancy by ingesting an herbal drink, according to WABC-TV.

Police arrested Yaribely Almonte on Wednesday and charged her after her fetus was found dead in the trash outside her Washington Heights building.  Self-abortion is a misdemeanor in New York, and according to the state statute, the charge applies if a woman “commits or submits to an abortional act upon herself which causes her miscarriage” after 24 weeks unless a physician states an abortion is medically necessary to save the woman’s life. If convicted, Almonte faces up to a year in jail.

Almonte couldn’t be reached for comment, and it’s unknown whether she has an attorney.

Laws across the country related to self-abortion vary widely, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit reproductive health research institution.

Only a handful of states, including New York, have laws explicitly prohibiting self-abortion.  New York’s law and a few others were passed before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that affirmed a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.  Since the passage of Roe, some states no longer enforce these self-induced abortion statutes.

Utah passed its law in 2010 after a 17-year-old pregnant girl paid a man to beat her to induce a miscarriage.  In that case, the fetus survived, the man went to jail and the law was enacted that would make the girl’s actions criminal.

Thirty-nine states make it illegal for anyone other than a medical provider -- usually a physician -- to perform an abortion.

“We can infer that there is some penalty if the person performing the abortion is not a physician,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute.  “Not all the laws exempt actions by a pregnant woman, but some do.”

There are also other states that have charged women under the fetal homicide law, Nash added.

It’s not clear what was in the drink Almonte consumed, but Dr. Kevin Ault, an associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine said the biggest risks of non-medical abortions are bleeding and infections.

“When you’re having a miscarriage, the cervix is open and a lot of bacteria can get into the vagina and go up into the uterus,” he said.  “People can also lose a lot of blood, and the only out is to go to the hospital.”  But because women may not want to admit what happened, doctors may not get the information they need for proper treatment.

There is a medically established protocol for abortions which includes counseling, the appropriate medications and post-abortion treatment, and Ault explained that self-abortion eliminates some of these important steps.

Statistics are unclear about whether the number of self-abortions is on the rise.

“If you talk to gynecologists that practice in bigger cities, like here in Atlanta, you get the impression they’re becoming more common for a variety of reasons,” Ault said.

One reason is the availability of a drug called misoprostol, or Cytotec, that can cause miscarriages.  It’s a prescription-only drug, but is often sold illegally at a very low price.  It’s also used as part of a two-drug combination, with mifepristone,  for medical abortions.

But a recent study by Guttmacher researchers surveyed nearly 9,500 pregnant women who visited abortion providers and found only 1.2 percent of them admitted to trying misoprostol in the past or with their current pregnancy, and only 1.4 percent of these women tried other means such as herbal concoctions.

The researchers, however, said it’s still unclear how many women self-induce abortions outside a clinical setting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug312011

Virginia Legislation May Shut Down Abortion Providers

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) -- New state board of health regulations issued last Friday lay the groundwork for stricter regulation of abortion providers in Virginia -- a shift in policy that abortion rights advocates feel unjustly targets women's clinics with the intent of limiting women's access to abortions.

According to the new regulations, all abortion clinics and physician offices providing abortions would have to meet specific building and safety requirements -- such as five-foot wide hallways, 250-square-foot operating rooms and specific ventilation systems -- that are normally only required for outpatient hospitals.  Similar regulations were passed by Kansas' legislature earlier this year but have been blocked by a federal judge.

The new rules for Virginia are the product of a law passed this winter that reclassified abortion clinics as hospital facilities. In accordance with the law, the state board of health has formulated specific health and safety regulations for the clinics.  These rules, which are now in preliminary form, will be voted on by the board on Sept. 15 and, if approved, most likely be signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell before the year's end.

Though the board of health cites patient safety as its primary motivation for the new laws, women's clinics affected by the new regulations argue that they are being specifically targeted by an anti-abortion rights state government that seeks to regulate abortions out of existence in Virginia.

"My initial reaction to these laws is that Gov. McDonnell is pandering to his political base, not that he's concerned with the medical needs of Virginia's women and their families.  We've been providing safe, up-to-code abortions for over 30 years and these facilities have served us well," says Jill Abbey, who oversees four women's clinics in Virginia that collectively provide about 3,500 abortions each year.

"Colonoscopies, dental surgery, and plastic surgery are much more invasive than the abortions we provide, and they are not being asked to live up to this kind of strict regulation.  That tells you right there that this is not about safety, it's about politics," Abbey says. Under the proposed regulations, she believes that none of her four clinics would be able to operate at this time.

According to Ted Miller, a spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice America, none of the 21 clinics providing abortions currently meet the rigorous standards laid out in the draft regulation.

"Abortion providers are already the most regulated health care providers in the state, and abortion remains one of the safest medical procedures," he said. "They're specifying what fabric can be used on window coverings, the ceiling height, how loud the air conditioning can be. What does this have to do with women's safety?  This has to do with politics."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul272011

Study: Controversial 'Telemedicine' Abortions Safe, Successful

Jeffrey Hamilton/Lifesize(CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa) -- A typical patient who walks into Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa isn't typical at all. She may be older or younger, married or single, but she is usually confident in her decision to terminate a pregnancy.

Neither is her preferred method these days -- a medical abortion without a doctor physically present.

As states increasingly enact laws that restrict women's access to legal abortion and a dwindling number of doctors choose to perform them, women who live in rural states like Iowa have found it more difficult to terminate their pregnancies. But now, women who might otherwise travel hundreds of miles to see a physician have another option: telemedicine.

A woman seeking an abortion via telemedicine has an ultrasound performed by a trained technician, receives information about medical abortion and signs a standard informed consent for the abortion.

Once that is complete, a physician steps in via teleconference. The doctor reviews the woman's medical history and ultrasound images, and once it is determined that she is eligible -- up to nine weeks pregnant and not an ectopic pregnancy -- she has time to ask questions.

Then, the doctor enters a computer passcode to remotely open a drawer at the clinic containing two pills. She then swallows the mifepristone, under the doctor's supervision, and then is instructed to take four additional tablets of misoprostol within the next 24 to 48 hours. The actual abortion happens at home.

Iowa is one of the many states that require a doctor to perform a medical abortion. But telemedicine fits within the guidelines of that law.

Although the numbers are declining, 1.2 million abortions were performed in the United States in 2005, the last year statistics are available, making it a one of the most common procedures undergone by women.

In Iowa, about 60 percent of women seeking abortion choose a medical one, rather than a surgical procedure -- and many of them choose telemedicine.

"Most of our patients are not young teens," said Julie Bosier, central manager in charge of patient education at the Cedar Rapids Planned Parenthood clinic. "We get a wide variety of women from all walks of life and at a difficult point in their life. It's not an easy decision, but they do what's best for them at that time.

"We first ask them how confident they are and talk about options," she said. "We can size up how a patient is feeling, and most say, 'Yup,' we know what we want to do. But sometimes we have a patient who is not confident and could use more time or needs to slow down a bit. One of the nice things about the telemedicine program is if a patient is not 100 percent sure, we can reschedule them and give them more time."

By the time the patient actually gets to see the doctor on the monitor, "she's feeling real comfortable," said Bosier. "I sit and process with her -- 99 percent of the time, they don't have any questions. We dispense the pill and off the patient goes."

When mifepristone is administered, nothing happens for about two days until she takes misoprostol at home and bleeding and cramping start. Women's reactions vary from reporting a heavy period to significant pain. Fewer than 5 percent of all women require a surgical procedure to complete the abortion.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland offers telemedicine abortions at 16 of its 25 centers throughout the state, but not at its three clinics in neighboring Nebraska, where it is against the law.

Telemedicine abortions have been performed in Iowa since 2008, but for the first time, a study by Ibis Reproductive Health shows that they are as safe and successful as medical abortions with a doctor physically present.

"Part of it has to do with the convenience for women," said Ibis senior researcher Daniel Grossman, who is a gynecologist and an obstetrician. "They are able to get it closer to home and done sooner. It just adds another option for women that fits better into their lives."

Researchers followed 450 women between 2008 and 2009 who obtained medical abortions at six Planned Parenthood of the Heartland clinics in Iowa. Half of the women in the study accessed the services through an in-person physician visit and half through a telemedicine visit where the woman spoke to the doctor using video teleconference equipment on a secure dedicated data connection.

"Generally, during the actual expulsion, it's like a miscarriage," said Grossman. "It can be painful, but it can be easily controlled with oral pain medications. Women come back for a follow-up a week or two later to have an ultrasound to confirm that the abortion is complete."

About 1 percent of the women had a complication related to the medical abortion -- but adverse events were not more prevalent in one group more than the other.

But the national anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue calls this procedure "push-button" abortion that "kills babies and endangers the lives of women." So far, five states -- Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska and Tennessee -- have passed laws limiting telemedicine abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Todd Buchacker, a nurse and regional director of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's health services, said making it easier for women seeking an abortion doesn't result in more abortions.

The number of abortions in Iowa has fallen from an all-time high of 10,022 in 1997 to 5,829 in 2009, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments, and it has continued to drop each year by about 10 percent.

As part of the Iowa Initiative, a program to reduce unintended pregnancies, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has implanted 7,000 intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-acting reversible contraception in women.

"We won't know the numbers for several years, but I do think that certainly could be part of the reason we are seeing fewer abortions," Buchacker said. "History tells us that when the economy is bad, women tend to have more abortions, and that has not held true in Iowa."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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