Iowa would have toughest abortion restriction in the country

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June 8th, 2011 by Ric Hanson


The Iowa House has passed a bill that would establish the toughest abortion restriction in the country. Five other states have passed laws that ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. Earlier this year, the Republican-led Iowa House embraced a similar ban, but on Wednesday the House voted to establish an abortion ban that would begin two weeks earlier. Representative Dawn Pettengill, a Republican from Mount Auburn, was the point person for the G-O-P on this newly-worded bill, and she was surprised during a conversation with reporters after the bill passed to discover it tougher than the previous version. “I believe that life begins at conception, so to me, I say, ‘Great!’” Pettengill said. “I’m glad that is true.” This new bill passed on a day when House Republicans had estabished rules that wound up preventing debate of the measure before a vote was taken on it. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines was incredulous.

“The fact that it was done, a major bill with serious health consequences for women, and we did it with no debate,” McCarthy said, his voice rising as he spoke with reporters. “It’s disgusting.” The bill faces a dim future in the Iowa Senate where Democrats have passed a proposal that sets up a new state permit process, written to prevent a Nebraska doctor from following through on his plans to open a late-term abortion clinic in the city of Council Bluffs. Pettengill says that’s not good enough.

“The people of Iowa, they told us they do not want a late-term abortion clinic in the state,” Pettengill says. “And not just in Council Bluffs, but completely across the state.” The only exception to the proposed ban would allow abortions after the 18th week of pregnancy if the mother’s life were at risk. Representative Beth Wessell-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, says legislators shouldn’t be making these life-and-death decisions.

“Today as I looked around the House chambers I have to pause,” Wessell-Kroeschell said after the bill passed, but just before the House adjourned for the debate. “Do I want my daughter and prospective grandchildren, their lives in the hands of lawmakers with no knowledge of pregnancy, not even how long a pregnancy lasts?” Representative Dwayne Alons, a Republican from Hull, supports the newer, more restrictive ban.

“Let’s protect the future of our state, our country,” Alons said, “to see life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness extended a little earlier into the womb.” Doctors calculate the length of a pregnancy by starting with the day of the last menstrual cycle, but the law in Nebraska, for example, used the time of fertilization, which is about two weeks later.

(O.Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)