116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Some Iowa legislators, and some guys in Washington, are, in effect, practicing medicine without a license. They prescribe when a woman may have an abortion like it is optional cosmetic surgery or a pedicure. No woman I have known has sought an abortion as casually as that. It is inevitably a psychological and physical trauma.
Rape, incest, and life endangerment are sufficient reasons for aborting, but they pretend gynecologists interfere earlier. Staying uninformed is a guiding principle. They have prevented Planned Parenthood from discussing in high schools how to avoid pregnancy because it does abortions in its clinics. Those lectures mean fewer teenagers pregnant and fewer abortions, something legislators scream they want.
The governor is involved as well. She must approve any abortion under Medicaid. There are about 3,500 abortions in Iowa in a year. If a third of them are covered by Medicaid and the governor spent only five minutes on a case, it would consume about eight full days a year. How does she decide? She is looking at paper, not people.
I wish legislators in Des Moines and Washington had been at my side many years ago. I experienced a back-alley abortion as much as a man can. I helped a woman get an abortion. I don’t remember her name, but I will never forget her face as she described her ordeal. She was barely out of high school, not long out of a small town in rural Minnesota. I knew her only in the morning when I had breakfast in an old hotel that was my home at the time. She was a waitress. We were not friends beyond morning coffee.
One day she asked if we could talk outside. She saw me, apparently, as a worldly guy who knew the topside and underside of our city. She was pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. I couldn’t find an abortion mill in Minneapolis. She traveled to a distant city alone, met a stranger in the night at an airport, rode in the back seat of a car down a dark alley with headlights dim, and into a ramshackle house. Alone.
In those days before Roe v. Wade in 1973, we talked of back-alley abortions done “professionally” and coat hanger abortions done by a desperate pregnant woman herself. Either choice was guaranteed trauma.
That we still debate the availability of abortions in a sterile, supportive surrounding is appalling. And even more distressing is the crazed language and disinformation coming from self-righteous legislators. They describe things that don’t happen in an abortion. They care about the child, as they call the fetus, in utero. Simply, they care about a child until it is born.
Some women, some girls have a choice: abortion or a baby without a father in sight. A young mother would raise the baby alone. That, likely and unfortunately, meant no further schooling, day care she couldn’t afford, a future of minimum wage jobs, an unlikely, or at least more difficult, marriage.
Thousands of women, on every social level and belonging to every religion, have abortions each year. They certainly don’t need advice from the Iowa legislature.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and authored a memoir “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”