Staff Columnist

Abortion law disparities are evidence of dishonesty

The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Protecting public health and well-being is a hallmark of good public policy. That’s part of how we know recent legislative forays into reproductive health care had little basis in the common good.

Last year, lawmakers passed and then-Gov. Terry Branstad signed Senate File 471, which banned abortions in the state at 20 weeks “postfertilization.”

This year lawmakers upped the ante by passing Senate File 359, outlawing abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Gov. Kim Reynolds recently signed this measure into law.

Both are undergoing legal challenge, but a final disposition isn’t required to note their disparities.

Women, including myself, reached out to lawmakers during debate of the 20-week ban. Specifically, those of us who shared our stories wanted to ensure exceptions for fetal anomalies, especially those incompatible with life. Our pleas fell on deaf ears. No exception for fetal anomaly was included in the bill.

Fast forward to this past legislative session and what was, by all accounts, a contentious backroom debate to pass the much more restrictive fetal heartbeat bill. Iowans learned certain lawmakers threatened to drag the session on indefinitely by withholding votes on budget bills.

A deal was finally struck to mesh an earlier fetal tissue ban with the more restrictive abortion ban. Included in that deal were several exceptions that contradict the earlier law.

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For instance, the more restrictive ban includes exceptions for abortions found “medically necessary,” the definition of which includes four instances:

1) Rape (so long as it is reported within 45 days)

2) Incest (so long as it is reported within 140 days)

3) Removal of the remnants of spontaneous abortion

4) Fetal anomaly

Lawmakers were so eager to cut a deal on this more restrictive ban that they tossed every available political bargaining chip on the table. One of which is directly linked to my family’s heartache and grief.

As to which version may eventually be upheld in court, lawmakers didn’t care. This was about scoring political points and gathering copy for election mailers.

Never forget that lawmakers now thumping their chests and proclaiming themselves the ultimate defenders of the unborn were the same men and women threatening to withhold state funding from programs that keep Iowa’s children outside of a womb and pregnant women healthy and alive.

And, please, keep in mind that these same lawmakers were more than happy to bargain away the health and well-being of my family if the votes added up. Because if they are willing to risk my family — the two amazing children I was able to conceive and carry because of an earlier late-term abortion — they won’t hesitate to risk yours.

Lawmakers can talk all they like about their commitment to the unborn. They can espouse their disgust at women, like me, who decide to end a pregnancy. But when the breadth of their self-professed values is determined by political expediency, they’ve forfeited any claim to integrity.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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