Iowa Abortion-Fetal Pain Bill Stalled by “Pro-Life” Legislators

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 20, 2011   |   4:07PM   |   Des Moines, IA

A bill in the Iowa legislature to protect unborn children supported by several pro-life groups is stalled because two “pro-life” legislators say it doesn’t go far enough. Their position could do more than abortion proponents to derail progress on the bill.

The legislation in question would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence that unborn children feel intense pain.

When Rep. Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley and a board member of Iowa Right to Life who is the sponsor of the bill, introduced House File 5, the expectation was that abortion advocates would kill the legislation after the House sent the bill to the senate. But the Iowa Republican blog indicates supportive lawmakers don’t have the necessary votes to get the measure out of the Human Resources committee.

With 12 Republicans and 9 Democrats on the panel, the legislation was expected to be reported to the House floor following a committee hearing, but two Republican legislators on the panel, Rep. Kim Pearson and Glenn Massie, are opposed to the bill. They say they want to see a full ban on abortions — even though such legislation would not be approved by the legislature and would certainly be overturned in court, failing to save the lives of any unborn children.

The Iowa measure is similar to a bill that already passed in Nebraska and has not been challenged in court but has been responsible for driving late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart to move the considerable majority of his abortion practice to Maryland to avoid the law.

Norm Pawlewski, a lobbyist for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition and Iowa Right to Life, told the IR blog about the problems.

“If we could have gotten solid support from Pearson and Massie, we could probably have the bill out of subcommittee this week and on the floor next week.  Right now, without one of their votes, the bill is dead in the Human Resources committee,” he said.

The blog indicates that Rep. Tom Shaw is also opposed to the measure for similar reasons and that the lawmakers are being driven to oppose the pro-life bill by The FAMiLY Leader, a little-known group led by well known politicians Bob Vander Plaats, Chuck Hurley, and Danny Carroll. Though Iowa Right to Life, the Iowa Catholic Conference, and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition support the bill, The FAMILY Leader reportedly is registered as “undecided” even though it has told Pawlewski it opposes the legislation.

Commenting on his bill, Windschitl said it is important to at least protect unborn children late in pregnancy.

“This bill goes beyond the stem of viability. We’re not talking about viability in this bill. We’re talking about fetal pain,” he said, according to the Des Moines Register. “We’re talking about dismembering a child in the womb. If that child can feel pain, is it not the states’s right, and do we not have a responsibility to protect that child?”

“We don’t want Iowa to become the late-term-abortion capital of the United States,” Windschitl said previously about his bill. “It will be similar to Nebraska’s law. I’m still deciding on what is the best piece of legislation possible that will hold up in the courts. I’m taking on the fight of Dr. LeRoy Carhart to keep him out of my state.”

Gov.-elect Terry Branstad has already indicated he would sign the legislation.

During the hearing, Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames was the leading critic of the measure in committee and she said she didn’t like some supporters of the bill referring to late-term abortions when the bill prohibits abortions at 20 weeks into pregnancy, which she termed midway through it. [related]

“I think when we get a little further into definitions we will also find that it’s not here to protect a woman’s health,” Wessel-Kroeschell claimed.

She claimed the science behind the concept of fetal pain has not yet been established.

However, Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into the concept of fetal pain and published the first reports in the 1980s to validate research show evidence for it. 
Should the bill pass the state House, the Iowa state Senate is another concern where Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, a Democrat, said his party would evaluate the bill later.

The Iowa state health department shows 9 abortions done after 20 weeks of pregnancy during 2009 and information for 2010 is not yet available.