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DES MOINES - A bill that would bar a woman from receiving an abortion after 20 weeks made it through an Iowa Senate committee on Thursday evening. But two other pieces of legislation seeking to limit Iowa women's access to abortion did not survive the session's first funnel deadline.
Senate File 53 passed on a 9-to-3 vote in the Human Resources Committee, securing two Democrats after the legislation was amended to include exceptions in cases where the mother's life is in danger or fetal anomalies in which the fetus is diagnosed with a medical condition that is incompatible with life.
The amendment was added after Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, said he heard compelling testimony during the Tuesday subcommittee meeting. During the meeting, Amanda Acton of Waukee testified about her own experiences with abortion, when she was told by her doctor in her 21st week that her daughter had a rare genetic condition and did not have lungs.
She said the decision to have an abortion was difficult, but the humane thing to do.
'We did listen,” Chelgren said.
But that was not enough for all the Democrats on the Senate committee.
'Not every pregnancy ends the way a family hopes it will,' said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. 'Sometimes it ends in miscarriage, sometimes the mother finds out there is something seriously wrong with her baby. Abortions later in pregnancy may make us uncomfortable. But one thing we can all agree on is that a woman's health and safety is crucial.”
If the Legislature wants to continue to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions, Bolkcom said it should be committed to funding family-planning services and support the use of contraception.
'Extreme bans do nothing to reduce abortions and hinder medical care,” he said.
The bill next will go before the full Senate for a vote.
A similar piece of legislation, House File 293, which passed through a House subcommittee on Wednesday, however, did not make it out of committee. That legislation, along with SF 253, the so-called personhood bill - which could have effectively banned abortions - died Thursday afternoon, after they were both taken off committee agendas.
The legislation - which women's health organizations called 'extreme and reckless” - would have made it so that life is 'protected from the moment of conception … and accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons.”
Opponents, including Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the bill severely would have limited women's access to the most effective forms of birth control as well negatively impacted families seeking to use in vitro fertilization services. Similar Personhood movements have failed in recent years in Colorado, North Dakota and Mississippi.
'SF 253 was a thinly veiled, unconstitutional attempt to ban abortion in the state of Iowa,” said Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in a statement. 'Even fellow Senate Republicans recognized it would have far-reaching unintended consequences, and refused to vote in its favor.”
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who chaired the committee and was a co-sponsor of Senate File 253, expressed disappointment that the bill did not survive. But he added, 'This is how the process works.”
Zaun was hesitant to comment on why the bill was unable to attain enough support to make it out of committee, but did say he received thousands of emails from Iowans both in support of and opposition to the bill.
'Obviously I believe in it,” he said. 'I'm interested in saving one unborn child at a time.”
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