The telemed abortion debate rages in Iowa

By Tom Quiner

I’m sitting in Anchorage reading about the debate my essay in the Des Moines Register has sparked.

I only had intermittent access to the internet this week, but it seems every time I check in, there are new letters in the paper either supporting or bashing my position.

This morning, a writer claimed the whole telemed abortion debate is all about politics:

“Tom Quiner’s guest column [“Webcam Abortions Have Nothing to do with Health,” Aug. 2] shows how the whole Iowa Board of Medicine issue is more about the politics and less about the practice of medicine.

The telemedicine delivery system is a success. Just look at the fact that over 94 percent of women were very satisfied using the system.

If Quiner is so concerned about people’s safety, he should lead the charge against overthe- counter Aleve, which is statistically is more dangerous than the prescription used for medication abortion.

The Iowa Board of Medicine is a non-political body, and we should keep it that way.”

— Sandra Armstrong, Des Moines 

I marvel at Ms. Armstrong’s definition of success.  Were the 6% of women who weren’t satisfied injured by RU-486? Did 100% of the babies in the womb attacked by the drug die? What kind of person considers that good? Another thing, Aleve doesn’t kill a human being with every use, a subtle distinction, don’t you think?

On the other hand, a doctor jumped into the fray in the defense of life:

“Robert Ashman, M.D., asserts in his Aug. 7 letter that the Iowa Board of Medicine would violate the Hippocratic Oath if it prohibited telemedicine abortion. My esteemed colleague would not know the Hippocratic Oath if it came up and bit him on his gluteus maximus.

The original Hippocratic Oath has been the foundation of medical ethics in western civilization for 2,500 years and has four primary precepts: A physician is not to perform abortions; a physician is not to assist a patient in suicide; a physician must not violate patient confidentiality; and a physician must not have sexual relations with his patients.

We must not countenance Dr. Ashman’s distortion of this foundational affirmation of the sacredness and precious value of life.”

— Eugene J. Cherny, M.D., West Des Moines 

Another writer built on this theme:

“I thought it strange that a doctor would say that the Iowa Board of Medicine would be violating the Hippocratic Oath if members banned telemedicine abortions. Obviously, killing a baby is doing harm, but the Hippocratic Oath also specifically says, “I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.”

So any doctor providing an abortion is violating the Hippocratic Oath. The letter writer [“Board Must Remember Hippocratic Oath,” by Dr. Robert Ashman, Aug. 7] also must not have read any embryology textbooks in his differentiation of an embryo from a child. Human life begins at conception, and the fact that different stages are given different names does not mean that some stages are not human.

I know that some argue that babies and senior citizens should not be given the same status as having a right to life. Others believe that how we treat the helpless defines us as humans. So we should not treat any human as property.

Hippocrates recognized this in 400 B.C. We should still recognize this today.”

— David C. Hammel, Urbandale 

Advocates of human abortion seem quite comfortable twisting the Hippocratic Oath into a poisonous pretzel that means the exact opposite of its true intent.


  1. JoeC on August 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Until people can agree on when a “human” life begins, this issue of abortion will never be settled.

    You can call it murder all you want but in the eyes of the law, it is not, and therefor all the name calling does is entrench both sides even further from a solution.

    • quinersdiner on August 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Honest question: if it doesn’t begin at conception, as it does with every other life form, when does it begin for human beings?

      • JoeC on August 10, 2013 at 3:05 pm

        For me life is having a functional brain. Every other part of the body can be replaced at least in theory.

      • thatcontrarianguy on August 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm

        What evidence do you have that in every other life form ‘life’ begins at conception? (Personally I can’t think of one, might just be me :/) Life for me begins at birth.

    • doctorjohn on August 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      Joe, are you saying…”WHEN IN DOUBT…KILL ???”

      Life Begins At Conception………no matter where YOU feel comfortable.

  2. Paul Sharp on August 10, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Incredible, the twisted logic used to support abortion.

    Another example: I saw recently on C-Span a speech to the National Press Club by the TX Senator getting much press for her filibuster on a TX abortion limiting bill. In her speech she talked about her passion for giving a voice to those with no voice. What irony! But, stay tuned; she has many supporters I fear.

  3. David C. Hammle on August 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    All science says life begins at conception. Just check an embrology text. I quoted several in my letter to the editor but they edited them out.

    • quinersdiner on August 15, 2013 at 11:37 am

      If this is the same David Hammel who writes frequent letters to the Dsm Reg, I’m a big fan!