A federal judge overturned two Idaho laws that banned women from receiving a medication-induced abortion via telemedicine.
The ruling Monday from U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2015 by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands.
The organization argued that two state laws passed in 2015 created “unnecessary hurdles to safe and legal abortion that are not grounded in science, but instead rooted in politics," said CEO Chris Charbonneau.
The first law requires a doctor to be present when he or she administers abortion-inducing medication. The second law outlined telemedicine practices but included one line that banned doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication via telemedicine.
Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican who signed both laws, declined a request for comment.
The ruling requires the Idaho Legislature to repeal the law that requires a physician to be present for a medication-induced abortion and also to eliminate the abortion provision from the telemedicine law by the end of 2017. If the Legislature fails to do so, both laws will be considered unconstitutional.
"Based on the stipulated facts, and the entire record herein, the court hereby finds that the challenged laws ... provide few, if any, health benefits for women," Winmill wrote. "And that these benefits, if any, are outweighed by the burden these laws impose on access to abortion."
Idaho is one of 19 states that prohibit abortions via telemedicine, said Kate Grindlay, a researcher at Ibis Reproductive Health, a not-for-profit organization that works to increase access to abortion and reproductive health.
To receive a medication-induced abortion via telemedicine, a woman typically goes to a participating clinic and receives an ultrasound and counseling. After she gives formal consent for an abortion, a physician via video conference reviews her medical information to ensure she is eligible for a medication-induced abortion. If so, a set of tablets is administered to the patient and the physician watches her take them. The woman then takes the remaining set of tablets at her home after 24 hours.
Grindlay said telemedicine abortions ease access restrictions for women who live in rural areas far from a provider.
Opponents argue the restrictions banning medication-induced abortions via telemedicine better protect women since they require a doctor to be present whether the procedure is via medication or surgery.
Grindlay said that there is little difference between a medication-induced abortion done via telemedicine or when a physician is present in-person. “These bills are transparent in their design to restrict abortion access."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has publicly opposed bills that limit access to telemedicine abortions such as the ones in Idaho.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.