Gronstal thinks there’s a way to keep Carhart out of Council Bluffs

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May 10th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate says he “thinks there’s a way” to ensure a Nebraska doctor who performs so-called “late-term” abortions cannot open a clinic in Council Bluffs. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, who is from Council Bluffs, says work is underway to make changes in a bill that already cleared the Iowa House, a bill that would ban abortions in Iowa after the 20th week of a pregnancy.

“The legislation as drafted by the House I think significantly invites a very serious court challenge,” Gronstal says. “So I think we’re trying to look at some ways to fix that up in such a way that we can guarantee a new, late-term abortion clinic doesn’t open in Council Bluffs.” Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, was asked last week to examine the House-passed bill and lead the process of making changes.

“So I’ve spent part of last week and other the weekend studying the bill and working to craft some amendments that deal with what we think is the number one concern that the bill tries to address and that’s the establishment of a clinic by Dr. LeRoy Carhart in Council Bluffs,” Bolkcom says. Carhart is no longer able to perform so-called “late term” abortions at his clinic in Bellevue, Nebraska because a Nebraska law that took effect in mid-October bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Other states like Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho have recently passed similar laws and Iowa is among nearly a dozen other states with similar legislation pending, Bolkcom says there are concerns those laws are unconstitutional.

“I don’t think we should be about passing laws that we know on their face are unconstitutional,” Bolkcom says, “especially looking at the 20-week outright ban.” Bolkcom hopes to release details of the alternatives he’s exploring “within the next few days.”

“The issue we’ve heard repeatedly from people who care about this issue is the establishment of this clinic in Council Bluffs,” Bolkcom says. “And we are focused on that issue primarily.” Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, worked in 2003 to pass federal legislation that bans so-called “partial birth abortions.” King is urging state legislators in Des Moines to take the next step and pass a state law that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy.

“I know a little bit about LeRoy Carhart and I’ve looked that man in the eye and it’s a disturbing experience, let me tell you,” King says. So far, the four other state laws that ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy have not been challenged in court. Indiana’s governor last week indicated he’ll sign a similar abortion ban for his state.

(From Radio Iowa)