DUBUQUE, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 11 in a case on "webcam" abortions that could have far-reaching implications.

"It's been the first time in decades the Iowa Supreme Court has addressed the issue of abortion," said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, an organization that advocates in the public policy realm for Iowa's Catholic bishops.

In 2013, the Iowa Board of Medicine decided that webcam abortions should be banned in the state. A webcam abortion is a procedure where a woman gets a chemical abortion when there is no doctor physically present. The patient consults the doctor only through a webcam and the doctor remotely activates a drawer that opens to provide the woman with abortion drugs.

The medical board is against allowing the webcam procedure because a majority of the members believe it poses risk to the health of the women involved, according to Chapman.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland sued the medical board, arguing that abortion is a "fundamental right" under the Iowa Constitution. A Polk County district court upheld the medical board's decision. Planned Parenthood appealed the decision and is now taking its case to the Iowa Supreme Court. The case is officially called Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Inc. and Dr. Jill Meadows, M.D. v. Iowa Board of Medicine.

"This is a national test case," said Matthew Heffron, an attorney based in Omaha, Nebraska, who works with the Thomas More Society. "(Planned Parenthood) is trying the procedure here. If they're successful in this case, they will probably attempt to spread the practice in other states."

Webcam abortions are now banned in 16 states, according to Heffron. The Thomas More Society is a national law firm that advocates for life and family issues. The firm has filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in Planned Parenthood v. Iowa Board of Medicine on behalf of the Catholic Medical Associations of Des Moines and the Quad Cities, Iowans for Life and Women's Choice Center in the Quad Cities. These organizations are supporting the Iowa Board of Medicine's position.

Heffron attended the arguments, which he said lasted about 45 minutes in a small but densely packed courtroom.

"The solicitor for Iowa gave the argument on behalf of Iowa and the judges asked some insightful questions," said Heffron told The Witness, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

In the amicus brief, Heffron and two of his colleagues from the Thomas More Society argue that abortion is not a "fundamental right," according to the Iowa Constitution.

"(Analysis) leads to the overwhelming conclusion that abortion was not rooted in Iowa's history, legal traditions and practices," said Heffron. "In fact, it was consistently prohibited. The real issue is protecting women's lives. Webcam abortions are dangerous, and the Iowa Board of Medicine's ban on webcam abortion should be upheld."

After oral arguments, the Iowa Supreme Court has an indeterminate amount of time to make a ruling, but the case is on an "expedited schedule," Heffron said.