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Justices put activist governor in his place

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Iowans concerned about activist judges just got schooled about activist governors.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down Iowa’s administrative ban on online prescriptions of abortion-inducing drugs.

The ban was enacted by an Iowa Board of Medicine, stacked by Gov. Terry Branstad with anti-abortion appointees he obviously recruited to stop this practice.

Iowa was among the first states to allow these prescriptions to be offered through online – not in-person — consultation. Planned Parenthood introduced the system to serve Iowa women with limited access to reproductive health services.

When Branstad’s appointees to the Iowa Board of Medicine outlawed the practice, Planned Parenthood of Iowa filed suit, claiming the selective ban was aimed squarely at discriminating against women, the only gender that would seek this prescription.

The Board of Medicine never discussed other applications of telemedicine. Its ban focused only on prescriptions of abortion-inducing drugs.

The Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling agreed with standards from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists affirming the practice safe. The court ruled: “In their view, the medically necessary information a physician needs to determine whether to proceed with a medication abortion is contained in the patient’s history, blood work, vital signs, and ultrasound images—which can be accessed by reviewing the patient’s records remotely or in person.”

Further, the court said Branstad’s board, “imposes some burdens that would not otherwise exist,” for women seeking these services.

“The board appears to hold abortion to a different medical standard than other procedures.”

In this ruling, like the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 opinion affirming gay marriage, the court did not make law. It upheld Iowa’s constitutional protections against laws – or board policies – that squarely discriminate against one class of people.

Iowa’s gay marriage ban singled out homosexuals. Iowa’s Board of Medicine ban singled out a service provided only to women.

Branstad’s board-stacking gambit now has backfired. It resulted in strong, constitutional case law that certainly will be used to attack similar anti-abortion initiatives elsewhere. An analysis by National Law Review published Monday said the Iowa ruling will “strengthen” challenges to those laws in 16 other states that have outlawed telemedicine for reproductive services.

“Iowa is the first state supreme court to find a physical presence law unconstitutional. Since the decision relied in part on federal constitutional law, it can and likely will lead to challenges to other states’ bans on prescription of abortion-inducing drugs via telemedicine. Such challenges will be strengthened by the Iowa Supreme Court’s conclusion that there was no evidence that the physical presence of a doctor is medically necessary.”

Once again, thank Iowa’s justices for putting constitutional principles above political games.


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