Guest Columnist

We won't go back to an Iowa without safe, legal abortion

Anti-abortion and abortion rights supporters hold signs and chant Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des
Anti-abortion and abortion rights supporters hold signs and chant Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

Last week, anti-abortion politicians in the Iowa Senate advanced the constitutional amendment that will strip Iowans of their right to safe and legal abortion. The right to safe and legal abortion in Iowa is under attack, and anti-abortion politicians are working quickly to rig the rules so they can ban abortion. This most recent effort is the most egregious and extreme measure this state has seen.

This proposed constitutional amendment will set our state back years, and we know because we remember what it was like in Iowa without safe, legal abortion

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We saw and experienced firsthand the lengths women were forced to take when faced with unplanned pregnancies. Women with means traveled out of state to receive abortion care, including one of us. Others would use bleach, lye and vinegar or coat hangers in a desperate effort to end a pregnancy. We won’t forget the woman who became ill after traveling to a rundown house in Waterloo to have a back alley abortion. Or the mentally disabled teenager who sought an abortion after her grandfather sexually abused her. These memories haunt us, and we are speaking up now to make sure Iowans do not have to go through this again.

Before abortion was legal, many people were forced to take extraordinary lengths and risk their health to access abortion. Others were forced into marriage as young teenagers or shipped off by their parents to avoid being shamed for going against societal norms.

When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, we were relieved. We thought our rights were secured. But here we are almost 50 years later having the same conversations and fights.

For the third consecutive year, anti-abortion politicians in Iowa have introduced a constitutional amendment to strip Iowans of their right to safe, legal abortion and give lawmakers the unchecked ability to regulate abortion care. And it seems this year they will succeed in the first of a multistep process to change the Iowa Constitution.

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It has never been more clear: Iowa is headed back to the days of dangerous, back alley abortions and forced pregnancies if we don’t stop these anti-abortion lawmakers. They have already made it harder for people, especially those with low-incomes, to access reproductive health care such as birth control, annual exams and STI testing and treatment.

The results have already been disastrous for the state. But that hasn’t deterred these conservative lawmakers from enacting their narrow political agenda, which a majority of Iowans do not support.

Abortion is essential health care. Safe and legal abortion allows people to make private health care decisions between themselves, their doctors, their family and their faith. The only thing this constitutional amendment would do is endanger the lives of Iowans.

We are carrying the torch that our mothers passed on to us. It’s our responsibility, along with the generations that have come since, to continue the fight. Too much is at stake to sit idly by and have our futures determined by politicians who want to erase our reproductive rights and freedom. We won’t go back.

Jean Swenson of Waukee, Barb Madden Bittle and Karen Herwig, both of West Des Moines, are supporters of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa. They recently shared their personal stories of what life was like before abortion was safe and legal in Iowa.

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