Iowa House Won’t Pass Weak Abortion Bill Senate Democrats OKd

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2011   |   4:51PM   |   Des Moines, IA

The Iowa state House will not pass a bill Democrats in the state Senate approved that Republicans and pro-life groups say opens a door for late-term abortion centers to open up shop throughout the state.

The Iowa Senate, on Monday night, passed a weak bill that supposedly targets late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart but that does so insufficiently. Instead of allowing a vote on a House-passed bill that mimics a Nebraska law by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific evidence showing unborn children feel intense pain, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, the floor manager of House File 657 in the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal replaced the bill with new legislation.

The new measure targets Carhart and his potential plans to move his abortion business from Nebraska to Council Bluffs, Iowa following the passage of the 20-week abortion ban there. However, although the bill would make it so Carhart can’t open up shop in the Omaha suburb of Council Bluffs, he could still open an abortion business elsewhere in the state that meets the conditions of the legislation.

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 — meaning Carhart could open up there.

Responding to those concerns, Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican, said Thursday that the Iowa House will not approve the Senate bill.

“House Republicans are not interested in helping creating a procedure for late-term abortion doctors to come to Iowa, and that’s what the bill does,” Paulsen said. “The House is not going to pass that language. I cannot imagine there being 51 votes. We’re not going to pass what they sent over.”

Paulsen said the Iowa House stands by its “different approach,” House File 657, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, “But the Democratic-led Iowa Senate on Monday declined to take up that House bill.”

He said the House is considering amending the original 20-week abortion ban and sending it back to the Senate for consideration.

“It is absolutely a possibility that the bill would be amended and sent back,” he said, saying he wants to discuss it with Republican legislators first. ”I think that Iowans have sent a very clear message that they want us to address this. So I continue to think that is a pretty important matter for the legislature  to address, but I can’t make the Senate address it.”

With 26 Democrats voting yes and 23 Republicans opposed, the Iowa state Senate passed the new bill Monday night. During the debate, Republicans blasted the bill for paving the way for Carhart and other late-term abortion practitioners to open up in the state.

“I am sick that this bill actually sets up a pathway for late-term abortionists to set up work here in Iowa. I call this “the late-term abortionists’ invitation bill,” ” said Sen. Nancy Boettger, R-Harlan, according to the Des Moines Register.

Sen. Randy Feenstra, another Republican, added, “I am really concerned why we are doing this bill and if it is being done for the right reasons. I struggle because a baby’s life is important and none of us should have the ability to take that away.”  Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican, called the bill “a sham, it disgusts me, and we should be ashamed of ourselves.”

Senate Republicans tried unsuccessfully to use a procedural motion to bring the House-approved 20-week abortion ban to the floor, but Democrats prevented that from happening. Although all Republicans and two Democrats signed a petition to bring the ban to the floor, Gronstal prevented it and brought up the new bill instead.

Operation Rescue officials said before the vote that it is not good enough and noticed that Bolkom’s wife is Karen Kubby, the former director of an abortion business in Iowa City.

Cheryl Sullenger, Senior Policy Advisor for the pro-life group, said Bolkom “introduced the new bill in a spurious effort to appease those who want to prevent LeRoy Carhart from establishing a late-term abortion business in Council Bluffs. However Bolkcom’s bill would allow late-term abortions in four Iowa cities, including his home town, where hospital are located that provide Level II or Level III perinatal care. Council Bluffs has no such facility.”

ACTION: Contact your legislators at and urge support for the 20-week abortion ban and opposition to the Senate Democrats’ bill