In March, pro-life activist group Operation Rescue secretly taped a phone conversation between a Planned Parenthood of the Heartland receptionist in Iowa and a member of its team in Wichita posing as a prospective abortion client.

It was then that we first learned of telemed RU-486 abortions.

“Telemed” is short for “telemedicine,” which Wikipedia describes as “a rapidly developing application of clinical medicine where medical information is transferred through interactive audiovisual media for the purpose of consulting, and sometimes remote medical procedures or examinations.”

Think of clinical practice via Skype.

The Planned Parenthood receptionist explained that only four of her affiliate’s 16 offices were staffed by abortionists, so the remaining 12 had telemed systems in place to prescribe and dispense RU-486 abortions remotely.

On May 17, cat out of the bag, Planned Parenthood demonstrated the process to Des Moines’ KCCI:

Turns out Planned Parenthood had already committed 1,500 telemed abortions over two years by the time Operation Rescue outed them.

And while Planned Parenthood claims telemed abortions are confined at present to Iowa, expansion has been in the works for some time. On May 21 Iowa Public Radio reported:

Clinics around the country have been inquiring about the [abortion telemed] system, and already Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa will also be signing on, making abortion available for the first time at their clinics in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, which lack full-time physicians on staff.

Director of Patient Services Barbara Chadwick says it’s the goal of Planned Parenthood to expand abortion services at its clinics nationwide over the next five years.

“We have been looking at initiating abortion service as a core service of all Planned Parenthoods, part of the Federation’s strategic plan for 2015.”

Medical abortions, Chadwick says, will be a key element in that strategy, and signing up for the long-distance option will get her organization toward the goal faster. …

Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson wrote in a May 30 op-ed:

Two years ago, I went to a National Abortion Federation meeting and listened to a nurse from (Planned Parenthood of the Heartland) brag about the new telemed abortion method. He said it would revolutionize the way medical abortions were conducted, starting in Iowa and then expanding throughout the nation.

I did a little digging and found that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, which operates in Alaska, Idaho and western Washington, has been trialing telemedicine in Alaska since 2009, with “plans to expand.” At present it uses telemed for “discussing birth-control methods and receiving prescriptions, emergency contraceptive visits, STI screenings and [abortion] options education,” but rest assured RU-486 abortions are right around the bend.

I don’t know if Great Northwest’s telemed equipment was funded through the federal government but would be surprised if not. Federal funding appears to be part of the plan. Pro-Life Wisconsin found this revealing July 10, 2009, article in the Business Journal of Milwaukee:

Since there aren’t enough primary-care physicians or nurse practitioners to get to all of the patients, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is bringing the patients to them.

The organization, which [has] … 28 clinics across the state, has begun investing in telemedicine, a high-tech way for the patient and clinician to communicate via video phone. …

The video phones, which are the size of a laptop computer, are at 10 Planned Parenthood locations … chosen because they are the organization’s Title 10 clinics, which means they receive funding from the federal government. …

A federal grant paid for the video phones, which cost $15,000 each. …

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin piloted the telemedicine program in March 2008 at three clinics. … The equipment for the pilot project was paid for with a grant from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

(Planned Parenthood) is looking for additional grants to pay for phones in the remaining 18 clinics. …

Sweet. Get grants from the federal government to pay for telemed equipment under the guise of using it for federally approved programs and then segue their use for telemed abortions.

Planned Parenthood’s big plan becomes clearer when realizing Obama’s 2009 stimulus package included $19 billion for health-information technology, of which at least $1.6 billion was earmarked for telemedicine funding.

A June 2009 report by Tides and the California Endowment wrote of the “unprecedented opportunity” due to “new funding for health-information technology at the federal level,” listing nine California Planned Parenthoods as “community clinics” for which telemed grants might be available.

I expect there are more but found that Planned Parenthood of Utah, as “a Title X funded reproductive health organization,” is already a “telehealth equipment” federal grant recipient for “videoconferencing.”

As I outlined in last week’s column, telemed abortions are a dangerous development in abortion procurement.

But, worse, it appears you and I are likely paying for it.

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