After a Nebraska doctor announced plans to open a clinic in Iowa to perform late-term abortions, Iowa lawmakers this week gave initial approval to a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in Iowa after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Norm Pawlewski, a lobbyist for the Iowa Right-to-Life Committee, says there’s an urgency to the issue since Omaha-area Doctor Leroy Carhart made his plans public to open a clinic in Council Bluffs.
“We’re talking not about six, or seven, or 10, or 20, we’re talking about hundreds (of late-term abortions) and that’s what we have a concern for,” Pawlewski says. “We need to relieve the people of Council Bluffs from having this blemish on their community.”
Iowa Representative Mark Brandenberg, a Republican from Council Bluffs, was one of the legislators who spoke out on the issue.
“I believe that there’s overwhelming support in Council Bluffs for this bill…because of Dr. Carhart,” Brandenberg says, “and so I support the bill.”
Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference called it a “real ban” on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.
“In our law today, you know, if you kill a bald eagle, you’re going to jail for a year,” Chapman said. “…But there is no comparable protection for the human unborn.”
The legislation would allow doctors to perform an abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy to save the life or health of the mother. Critics say that means the bill would deny abortions to women who have been told by their doctor that the fetus is deformed or will not survive outside the womb.
Kyle Carlson is legal director for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “I think the biggest concern with this piece of legislation is a woman who is in a very tough situation of having a condition with her pregnancy where the fetus is incompatible with life and doesn’t discover it until 21 weeks is then is in a position where she is, under state law, forced to carry a pregnancy to term for another 19 or 20 weeks when it’s not going to result in a life at all,” Carlson said.
Representative Annette Sweeney, a Republican from Alden, says doctors aren’t always right. “There’s a young gentleman, his mother was told 22 years ago that he was going to be physically impaired,” Sweeney told the committee, pausing as her voice choked with emotion. “This young man I’m talking about is my son. He is a senior at Iowa State in ag engineering and just returned from New Zealand studying thermal dynamics and structure systems.”
The bill was approved by an Iowa House subcommittee, but it’s not clear if the bill can pass the full House committee where key abortion opponents have vowed to oppose it.
Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines, videotaped the proceedings. “I’m used to being with people who understand that abortion is a crime,” Leach told legislators at the end of the meeting. “…There’s a few of us out here for whom the issue is not negotiable.”
The bill must clear the full House and the Senate before it would get to the governor’s desk for his signature. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs has said he would bring the bill up for debate in the senate if the bill clears committee.