Government

Iowa abortion restrictions get final approval

Waiting period, ban after 20 weeks expected to be signed into law

The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Women seeking abortions would have to wait three days before getting one and most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be banned under legislation passed Tuesday in the Senate and sent to the governor.

Ocheyedan independent Sen. David Johnson joined 29 majority Republicans in passing Senate File 471. All 20 Democrats voted no.

The 72-hour wait for women seeking an abortion was not eligible for debate when the Senate previously approved SF 471 on a 32-17 vote. But the GOP-led House used a procedural move to suspend its rules so the change could be approved and returned to the Senate.

“This waiting period may save a few lives,” said Sen. Mark Costello, R-Imogene, the bill’s floor manager, in urging his colleagues to accept the changes and send them to GOP Gov. Terry Branstad for his expected signature.

However, Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said the House changes take a balanced set of Iowa laws on legal abortion and “unravels” them with “something drastic.”

Only a handful of states have a waiting period as long as the one Iowa lawmakers have approved, according to Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health care policy and research organization.

The amended bill would allow an abortion after 20 weeks only if doctors determine it’s necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. But it does not include exceptions for pregnancies involving fetal anomalies or resulting from rape or incest.

The House also changed the original bill by removing criminal penalties. It does allow women to seek civil damages against providers who perform illegal abortions or parents whose daughter was a minor at the time of an abortion done without parental consent. Another provision allows physicians to be disciplined by the Iowa Board of Medicine if they’re found to be in violation of the law.

Jochum said she trusts Iowa women to make their own medical decisions rather than have “Big Brother” government interfering.

“These are women who wanted to be pregnant, they wanted this baby and something went terribly wrong,” she said. “This is not a decision that women willy-nilly make or on an impulse. These are heart-wrenching situations.”

Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, tried to amend the bill to be even more restrictive to all but ban abortions — a move ruled non-germane by Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny.

After the ruling, Bertrand admonished fellow Republicans for having “a Chet Culver moment” by not taking advantage of having GOP control of the Legislature and governorship to “go to the mat.” He compared it with the time the former Democratic governor vetoed a collective bargaining expansion when Democrats controlled state government after the 2006 election.

“I guess this is the life bill that we’re going to get. This is it. This is the vote,” Bertrand said in an impassioned speech. “If not now, when?”

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said Iowa has a good system of family planning services that are working, and the new 72-hour waiting period would cause added expenses and delays.

“It’s time for politicians to stop interfering in the health care decisions of women and her trusted advisers and her family. Enough is enough,” Bolkcom said.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, called the waiting period the “time share clause” in the bill.

“No one would buy a time share if they were able to go home and talk to their friends, talk to the neighbors, pray about it and sleep on it and talk to people they trusted,” Chelgren said. “Anyone who wants to get an abortion and has made that decision can do so under this bill. ... All they have to do is wait 72 hours to make sure that that decision was right, because it’s an irreversible decision.”

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.