The Legislature is considering a measure that not only would introduce one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, but could deal a major blow to a local medical training program — a move medical students are voicing their opposition against.
Senate File 2281, dubbed “the heartbeat bill,” would prohibit physicians from performing an abortion in Iowa if a fetal heartbeat is detected, essentially banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
In Eastern Iowa, the bill’s passage means the University of Iowa could lose accreditation for its obstetrics and gynecology residency program, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
It is the only medical training program in this field in Iowa.
The bill successfully passed the Senate at the end of last month.
Although it initially looked as if it wouldn’t make it through this past week’s funnel deadline, House Republicans amended the heartbeat bill and attached it to Senate File 359, which bans the buying, selling or transferring fetal body parts. The amended bill passed the Human Resources Committee on Thursday and now heads to a full House vote.
What’s Happened Since
Just before the House moved the legislation forward, dozens of University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine students collectively expressed opposition to the bill in a petition sent to legislators. The Gazette also published their letter Wednesday.
They are opposing the bill for what it would do to the university’s obstetrics and gynecology residency program, not due to any moral standing, said Thomas Pak, co-author of the letter and a 28-year-old Medical Scientist Training Program student pursuing M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.
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“We respect people’s viewpoints,” Pak said. “We understand abortion is a very complex issue. We’re not making a stance for or against abortion.”
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the national accreditation agency requires obstetrics and gynecology residency programs to provide training or access to training in abortions for doctors.
The petition, which included the signatures of 84 medical students, stated the legislation “damages the training of resident physicians and medical students alike.”
Amanda Manorot, 26, a second-year medical student, said undergraduate medical students — before their residencies — also gain experience in obstetrics and gynecology through a six-week clinic rotation.
Without the residency program, the students say all of women’s health care in the state could be negatively impacted.
According to a 2017 report from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Iowa ranks 49th for the number of OB-GYNs practicing per 10,000 women.
“Losing our OBG residency would deal a devastating blow to women’s health care in our state,” reads a letter last month from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican seeking election this year, has not indicated if she would sign the legislation if it reaches her desk.
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“The governor would wait to comment on the bill until she sees it in its final form,” Reynolds’ spokeswoman, Brenna Smith, wrote in an email. “However, she believes in protecting life and has said she will never stop working to protect the unborn.”
Manorot, who has an interest in pursuing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology, said she put her name on the petition because she believes the role of health care providers includes advocating for the their patients needs.
“We can be a voice for people who don’t have voice,” she said.
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