Iowa House Passes Abortion Ban at 18 Weeks of Pregnancy

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2011   |   5:28PM   |   Des Moines, IA

Upset that the state Senate turned back its efforts to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the pain unborn children experience during an abortion, the state House went even further.

The Iowa Senate, last month, 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.

House legislators passed it on a 54-37 vote without debate because of a deadline for the legislature to end. All Republicans supported the pro-life bill and all Democrats opposed it except for Democrat Dan Muhlbauer.

Today, House Republicans passed a revised Senate File 534 that removes the weak Senate language and replaces it with, according to the Des Moines register, a ban on virtually all abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy — two weeks earlier than the Nebraska law that has not been challenged in court by abortion supporters.

Rep. Dawn Pettengill, a Republican who headed up the changes, said she was glad that the bill would be one of the strongest pro-life laws in the nation.

“I believe life begins at conceptions so, to me, I say great. I’m glad that is true,” Pettengill said, according to the Register.

The revised legislation would charge abortion practitioners with a crime for doing abortions after that point and they could face 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for abortions afterwards. That upset Rep. Janet Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat who was upset “doctors” would be charged even though abortion practitioners typically don’t practice legitimate medicine.

Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, opposed the ban on late abortions and claimed lawmakers supporting it “seem to be on a reckless attack of Iowa women.”

The Senate -passed 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 last month, 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.”

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 hospitals are located that provide Level II or Level III perinatal care. Council Bluffs has no such facility.”