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DES MOINES — Iowa House lawmakers voted Wednesday largely along party lines to advance bills adding new requirements for abortions, but a committee took the unusual step of unanimously supporting a proposal making it a more serious crime to attempt to coerce a pregnant women into an abortion.
The House Judiciary Committee approved House File 2206, which would make attempting to coerce a woman to have an abortion a Class D felony. Under current law, a person who intentionally terminates a pregnancy without the consent or knowledge of a woman is guilty of a Class C felony.
However, Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, noted that the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a defendant who argued he could not be found guilty because his attempts to induce an abortion by forcing his wife to take abortifacients were unsuccessful.
“This plugs a loophole in state law,” Salmon said before the committee voted 20-0 to move the bill to the full House.
Attempting to intentionally terminate a pregnancy without the knowledge and voluntary consent of a woman would become a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,245.
Other discussion Wednesday of legislation to regulate medication abortion — abortions induced by a drug or medication — fell along more typical ideological lines.
The Human Services Committee amended House File 2119, which would prohibit a person from dispensing an abortion-inducing drug except in a health care setting — and not by receiving the drug by mail. An amendment rolled another bill, House File 383, onto HF 2119.
HF 383, approved by a subcommittee earlier in the day, would require anyone providing medication abortions — which accounted for 80 percent of the abortions performed in Iowa last year — to inform women of “the effectiveness and possibility of avoiding, ceasing or even reversing the effects of a medication abortion.”
The amendment made a bad bill worse, said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames. “This is such a bad bill it’s hard to zero in on what’s the worst part,” she said.
Medication abortions are a “wonderful method” for women needing them, she said, adding they have a 99 percent safety record.
Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, a pharmacist, expressed reservations about the drugs proponents said could be used to reverse a medication abortion.
He said he could find no clinical trials to lend credibility to the claims that a medically induced abortion could be reversed or the impact on a fetus of first inducing an abortion drug and then attempting to reverse it.
At a subcommittee hearing on HF 383, Teresa Welsh, a registered nurse, called it “medically and ethically responsible” to tell women of the procedures and the risks associated with a medication abortion
“Developing research indicates a success with reversing the effects of the first abortion pill, if the patient chooses,” she said.
The drug reversal process offers “an opportunity for the woman to rescue her child when she's changed her mind about the abortion, as well as perhaps spare her the pain and regret of losing a baby,” added Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference.
The committee approved HF 2119, as amended, making it eligible for full House debate.
Also winning subcommittee approval Wednesday was House File 2231 that provides a person who assaults someone he or she knows or reasonably should know is pregnant is guilty of a Class D felony, punishable by no more than five years in prison and a fine up to $10,245.
“An assault against a mother who is carrying a child is an assault against the life of the child as well,” said Rep. Cherielynn Westrich, R-Ottumwa. “This heinous act should be a felony.”
Another bill, House File 2210, would require health care providers to report to the state Department of Public Health cases involving treatment for complications or death arising from an abortion.
Failure to comply with the law would be a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,560.
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