Last week, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced a bill (HR 5731) that would prohibit federal telehealth grants from going to clinics and doctors who use videoconferencing technology to prescribe the abortion medication mifepristone, also known as RU-486, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports.
The bill has 47 co-sponsors, including Republican Study Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 5/11).
The bill states that "no funds made available under a telemedicine law ... may be used for telemedicine abortions or for assistance to facilities that offer telemedicine abortions." It also would prohibit any equipment or other infrastructure purchased with federal telehealth grants from being used for abortion care (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 5/11).
King claimed that RU-486 is dangerous ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 5/11). He said the bill is aimed at cutting off telehealth funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics.
Planned Parenthood officials said that providing abortion medication represents a very small percentage of the services that the organization provides through telehealth technology. They said that outcomes for telehealth patients are identical to those with conventional office visits.
In 2011, King sponsored an amendment with similar language that was attached to an appropriations bill. The provision later was dropped when the bill was integrated with other appropriations measures (CQ HealthBeat, 5/11).