Democrats in the Iowa Senate have drafted a bill designed to bar a Nebraska doctor from opening a late-term abortion clinic in Council Bluffs.
The bill would require that any new “free-standing” late-term abortion clinic obtain for a state “certificate of need” or permit. And that permit would only be issued to clinics located “within close proximity” to hospitals that’re able to provide specialty care for patients in life-threatening situations.
The Iowa House has voted to ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says this new Senate bill addresses the “interest” in preventing a late-term abortion clinic from opening in Council Bluffs.
“This bill before us today protects the life and health of the mother and the fetus,” Bolkcom says. “What it doesn’t do is put politicians or the government in the middle of a family’s gut-wrenching decision about what to do when a planned pregnancy goes terribly wrong.”
Critics like Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton say the bill is written in such a way that Nebraska Dr. LeRoy Carhart might be able to open a late-term clinic in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines or Iowa City because those cities have hospitals with a perinatal unit.
“This bill does absolutely nothing to prevent Iowa from becoming the late-term abortion mecca of the midwest,” McKinley said.
Chuck Hurley of The Family Leader urged senators to reject the bill. “This is largely akin to requiring a hospital near Auschwitz,” Hurley said. Auschwitz was the largest Nazi concentration camp.
The abortion issue consumed much of the Iowa Senate’s day, with committee meetings often featuring testy exchanges. Bolkcom’s bill cleared a senate committee, but Republicans refused to suspend Senate rules and allow debate on the bill last night. It means the bill won’t be debated ’til Monday.
At one point Thursday, Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, tried a different tactic. He took a proposal that would ban abortions in Iowa after the 20th week of pregnancy and tried to add it onto a budget bill the senate was considering. Johnson argued the state is compelled to intervene on behalf of a “viable fetus.”
“Viability has changed with new medical technology,” Johnson said. “I think we all know people who have experienced some challenged being born premature, but they do live healthy lives afterward.” The Senate President ruled Johnson’s proposed abortion ban did not fall within the subject matter of the budget bill.