LIFE DIGEST: Planned Parenthood pushes ‘telemed’ abortions

By Tom Strode
May 25, 2010

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America hopes to strengthen its advantage as the country’s top abortion provider during the next five years by expanding its services for eliminating unborn children through a videoconferencing method now being used in Iowa.

Also in this edition: First British abortion ad airs; woman dies in Marie Stopes clinic, Boy’s trachea replaced by using own stem cells, Nearly half of Belgian euthanasia deaths involuntary, and IVF alone to be used in 10 years, Aussies predict.

Pro-life advocates have criticized the system, which they describe as “telemed” abortion, for its spread of abortion into communities where the procedure is not performed and for the lack of in-person care by a doctor.

In the first system of its kind in the United States, a doctor in Des Moines or another city can counsel by means of videoconferencing a patient in a Planned Parenthood clinic in another town in the state, according to the Des Moines Register. He can dispense the two-step abortion drug known as RU 486 to the woman seeking an abortion by pressing a computer button. His action opens a drawer from which the woman in the remote clinic may remove the pills.

The physician is able to observe her take the first pill, known as mifepristone or RU 486. She returns home to take the second pill, known as misoprostol, two days later. Mifepristone causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child, resulting in his death. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, expelling the baby.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which includes clinics in Iowa and Nebraska, is utilizing the method, which it calls “telemedicine,” and Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa plans to join in the program. That expansion will make abortions available for the first time at Planned Parenthood clinics in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, according to Iowa Public Radio News.

So far, 1.500 “telemed” abortions have been performed, Iowa Public Radio reported, and Planned Parenthood believes that number will multiply across the country.

“We have been looking at initiating an abortion service as a core service of all Planned Parenthoods, part of the federation’s strategic plan for 2015,” said Barbara Chadwick, director of patient services for Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa, according to Iowa Public Radio.

Abortions by RU 486 will be a key component of Planned Parenthood’s strategy, Chadwick said, and enrolling people in the videoconferencing option will help the organization reach its goal more quickly, Iowa Public Radio reported.

“If this push-button abortion scheme is allowed to spread, it will only increase the number of abortions at a time when abortion rates are falling and abortion clinics are closing,” said Troy Newman, president of the activist pro-life organization Operation Rescue. “Not only will more babies die, but women will be placed in increased danger of serious medical complications or death, with no real emergency plan other than to make patients fend for themselves at whatever emergency room they can find.”

Operation Rescue has filed complaints with the Iowa Board of Medicine, saying the “telemed” method is dangerous and violates guidelines for use of RU 486.

Planned Parenthood affiliates across the United States performed more than 305,000 abortions in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available. PPFA received about $350 million in government grants and contracts in 2008.

First British abortion ad airs; woman dies in Marie Stopes clinic

British television’s first commercial for abortion services—sponsored by Marie Stopes International—aired May 24 over the protests of pro-life advocates.

The controversial advertisement was telecast a day after a woman died while undergoing an abortion at a Marie Stopes clinic in Nepal.

The ad was telecast in the United Kingdom, with the exception of Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal. It does not use the word “abortion.” Instead, it consecutively shows three women who are described as being “late” for their periods. The off-camera narrator says, “If you’re pregnant and not sure what to do, Marie Stopes International can help.” The ad closes with the words “Are you late?” and a phone number displayed.

“I can only express utter disbelief that this is being allowed . . . , ” said Michaela Aston of the pro-life organization Life when the decision to air the commercial was announced, the Guardian newspaper reported. “To allow abortion providers to advertise on TV, as though they were no different from car companies or detergent manufacturers, is grotesque.”

Marie Stopes, which describes itself as a “not-for-profit sexual and reproductive health” organization, provided 920,000 abortions internationally last year. That was an astonishing 56 percent increase over 2008. That total included abortions by both surgery and drugs, such as RU 486.

In Nepal, Durga Devi Khadka died at the Marie Stopes Center in Damak, a municipality in the southeastern part of the Asian country. She was 10 weeks pregnant, according to the Nepali newspaper Republica. Police are investigating and have detained the clinic owner, Chitra Bahadur Karki.

Nearly half of Belgian euthanasia deaths involuntary

About half of the euthanasia deaths in Belgium are involuntary, according to new studies.

Articles in the Canadian Medical Association Journal provided the following information, according to a May 21 report at

  • About one in 25 deaths in Belgium is by euthanasia.
  • Of those, 2 percent take place after a direct request of a doctor, and 1.8 percent occur without such a request.
  • Voluntary euthanasia must be performed by a physician, but it is done 12 percent of the time illegally by nurses.

In 2009, Belgium officially had 700 euthanasia deaths, a jump from 500 such cases in 2008, according to a March report by Flanders News. These are officially reported figures, and expects say they represent only 25 percent of the actual totals.

Boy’s trachea replaced by using own stem cells

British and Indian doctors have achieved a milestone in stem cell research, transplanting a new windpipe, or trachea, into a 10-year-old boy using his own non-embryonic, or adult, stem cells.

It marked the first time such a procedure has been performed in a child and the initial case of an entire trachea being transplanted, the UCL Institute of Child Health in Great Britain reported

The transplant was conducted for a boy who has a rare congenital condition named Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis, which refers to a diminutive windpipe that will not develop. “It is like breathing through a straw and is a life threatening condition,” according to the institute.

Doctors stripped a donated trachea of the donor’s cells and injected stem cells from the boy’s bone marrow into the trachea shortly before implanting it in the boy, the institute reported March 18.

Using the boy’s own stem cells prevents possible problems with transplant rejection. Use of non-embryonic stem cells does not harm the donor.

The case is another success for non-embryonic stem cells, which have produced therapies in trials for at least 73 ailments in human beings, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. Embryonic stem cell research, which results from the destruction of human embryos, has yet to generate successful treatments in human beings.

IVF alone to be used in 10 years, Aussies predict

Within 10 years, men and women will produce children exclusively by in vitro fertilization (IVF), two Australian veterinary doctors have predicted.

Such a development would remove reproduction as one of the purposes of sexual intercourse and potentially lead to the growth of eugenics.

According to the Daily Mail, John Yovich of Murdoch University in Perth and co-author Gabor Vajta predicted the dramatic shift in an article for the journal Reproductive Biomedicine.

IVF could have a nearly 100 percent rate of success, while natural reproduction is “at best a fairly inefficient process,” Yovich said May 17, the British newspaper reported. At this time, IVF has, at best, only a 50 percent success rate, according to the Daily Mail.

Test-tube production in cattle is 100 times more effective than the natural method, and there is no reason IVF in human beings could not reach a similar difference in success, Vajta said.

IVF embryos already are commonly screened to determine possible chromosome abnormalities. A move to human reproduction by IVF alone likely would increase the number of embryos eliminated because they tested positive for traits their parents did not desire.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission works to protect the sanctity of human life. If you would like to learn more about this issue, additional resources are available here. Our free, downloadable Impact resource is also available online. If your church is interested in purchasing materials on the sanctity of human life, please visit our online bookstore and

Further Learning

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