Iowa Fetal-Pain Abortion Ban Replaced by Measure Targeting Carhart

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 12, 2011   |   11:22AM   |   Des Moines, IA

The Democratic state senator who was charged with shepherding a fetal-pain based ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy says he will introduce a much weaker measure because Democrats in the Senate don’t approve of a bill the House passed.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, the floor manager of House File 657 in the Senate, said yesterday he will replace the ban with Senate Study Bill 1212 today in the Senate Ways and Means Committee that he claims “is consistent with Iowans’ values, does not endanger a woman’s health or safety, and takes measures to ensure we provide the appropriate standard of care necessary to save lives.”

The bill comes because Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, whose hometown is Council Bluffs, opposes the fetal pain bill but doesn’t want to see Nebraska-based late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart relocate across the border to Iowa because of the fetal pain-based abortion ban Nebraska passed.

The Iowa Independent indicates Bolkcom sent a press release out Wednesday afternoon adding that the bill would use the  Certificate of Need process to require that “a new abortion facility which performs abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization is in close proximity to an Iowa hospital, with the appropriate level of perinatal care to protect the life or health of the woman and the fetus.”

That wouldn’t have anywhere near the impact of a 20-week abortion ban but would supposedly stop Carhart from moving to Council Bluffs because no such hospital in the Omaha suburb would be able to meet the requirement of the legislation. Bolkcom said the only hospitals in the state that would meet the requirements are ones in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Iowa City.

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, a Republican, told the newspaper that, as of late Wednesday, he had not examined the new bill, but pro-life advocates are not expected to be pleased by the changes and the departure from the late-term abortion ban and the educational component of it that shows Iowa residents unborn children feel intense pain during an abortion and that that is a reason to respect the dignity of human life.

Gronstal has been under pressure from pro-life groups and local constituents, who turned up at a large Saturday rally in his district, to pass the fetal pain abortion ban. Also, 26 members of the Iowa Senate — all of the Republicans and two Democrats — joined together to try to get the House-passed bill out of the Senate committee that refused to move it to the Senate floor. Since they filed their discharge petition, Gronstal has stalled.

The Senate committee is expected to take up the bill this afternoon.