Guest Columnist

Iowa's constitutional amendment threatens the lives of women

Speakers crowd a standing-room-only subcommittee meeting Tuesday, Feb. 4,  2020, at the State Capitol in Des Moines.  Ho
Speakers crowd a standing-room-only subcommittee meeting Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, at the State Capitol in Des Moines. House members considered legislation seeking to amend the Iowa Constitution with language dealing with access to abortion services and funding. (Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

I recently sat across a table from a legislative sub-committee of three Iowa lawmakers shaking and holding back tears as I laid bare what should have been my private medical history. The binges and purges. A suicide attempt at age 12. The crippling depression and anxiety that continued to follow me, and the abortion that saved my life.

Politicians in Des Moines with no medical background want the right to micromanage what should be private health care decisions between an individual and their doctor. They want that right even if it comes at the expense of the constituents they serve. Iowa legislators have proposed an anti-abortion constitutional amendment that takes away Iowans’ basic rights instead of protecting them for the first time in our state’s history.

I never intended to share my story and relive my traumas, but I cannot stand idly by as these lawmakers continue to wage their war against the reproductive health care of Iowans. I stood shoulder to shoulder with members of the faith and medical communities and other advocates, who shared stories like mine, in order to fight to keep the basic right to access abortion care in Iowa, which is currently enshrined in the state constitution.

These conservative politicians insist abortion isn’t health care. That doesn’t change my medical records — the hospital stays and treatment centers. The battle to stay alive and maintain my recovery amid an unintended pregnancy — all things they have no authority discussing.

When I found out I was pregnant, my first thought was that I wanted to die. It was a mistake; one of the worst I could make at the time. My religious upbringing and personal faith forced me to be very aware of the significance in my decision — an unplanned pregnancy is life changing, and it’s complicated. My pregnancy influenced my mental health struggle, before I even confirmed its existence.

This is not a political matter. A pregnancy — planned or not — has an impact on the person’s body, and my body had already been through horrifying extremes, leaving me to question how it would handle an unintended pregnancy. I didn’t need a politician; I needed a doctor. My health care plan is not up for debate.

Severe depression and eating disorders don’t just affect the person who is pregnant, putting their life in danger, although the threats to my health should be enough. If these politicians cared about the health of the infant, they would recognize these medical issues can lead to premature delivery, low birth weight, cognitive delays, emotional and behavior problems and microcephaly.

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A piece of legislation should not force me to talk about my history of binging, purging and suicide attempts with strangers on my lunch break. Abortion is currently a safe and legal medical procedure — one that is part of my health care plan. It strengthened my recovery and has given me my best, healthiest life. I will not apologize for defending it. I’m horrified my life isn’t enough of a reason for legislators to allow me a choice.

Senate Republicans have already passed this dangerous legislation, with the Iowa House of Representatives expected to follow suit in the coming days. I urge Iowans to contact their legislators in the House and ask them to vote against this overreaching constitutional amendment.

Leah Vanden Bosch of Iowa works as a business liaison consultant. She is actively involved in Planned Parenthood and Iowa Abortion Access Funds.

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