Staff Columnist

In the pandemic, Iowans can have guns but they can't have abortions

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus during a news conference at the State Emergency O
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, Pool)

Welcome to Iowa, where in the middle of a global pandemic you can still walk into a Hobby Lobby, but you can’t access constitutionally protected health care.

Gov. Reynold’s emergency ban on non-essential medical procedures specifically includes surgical abortions. So, while hundreds of Iowans flock to Scheels to stock up on guns, women are left without the vital health care that they need. Health care, which, like it or not, still is a constitutionally protected right.

The logic in blocking access to surgical abortions, is that it will free up health care providers and personal protective equipment to meet the demand currently facing Iowa’s hospitals and clinics. But it’s a flawed logic, because forcing women to carry a birth to term means more doctor and hospital visits for pregnant women, and it also forces women who are facing unemployment and financial instability to take on the burden of caring for a child.

Picking and choosing which constitutional rights to allow Iowans to have and who to protect in a global pandemic is a craven use of political power for partisan gain and it’s exactly what Reynolds is doing.

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Women have abortions for many reasons, all personal and all valid. But it’s worth pointing out that in addition to the economic burden, with schools closed and Iowans unemployed or working from home, many women are now forced to house with their abusers. Nearly 1 in 9 Iowa women say that they’ve been raped by an intimate partner. Forcing women to go without a vital and essential health care option puts Iowans at risk and violates our most fundamental rights.

Additionally, abortion in Iowa is a time-sensitive medical need. Iowa has a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, except in the case where the life of the mother is threatened. But this crisis could go on much longer than 20 weeks.

It’s important to clarify that. women can still go to their local Planned Parenthood and access medical abortion services. Also the PP Direct app allows women to order their birth control online.

Iowa’s Governor has been behind the curve in nearly every response to the pandemic, except when it comes to violating our constitutional rights. There, she joins Texas, Oklahoma, and Ohio in the kind of forward thinking that is partisan and disastrous.

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The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have filed a lawsuit against Reynolds, which Reynolds has vowed to fight. Veronica Fowler, a spokesperson for the ACLU, told me in an interview, “We are trying to fight a global pandemic, the last thing we need is to be fighting a partisan battle.” But that’s what we have right now.

Past efforts by Gov. Reynolds to make abortions illegal have been overturned by the Iowa courts. In 2018, the Iowa Supreme court ruled that any abortion restrictions must pass “strict scrutiny” — which actually protects women in Iowa more than other federal rulings.

On Monday, a federal judge in Texas blocked the state’s attempts to ban surgical abortions. The best we can hope for in Iowa is that judges here will do the same and justice will prevail in the face of opportunist overreach of political power.

Picking and choosing which constitutional rights to allow Iowans to have and who to protect in a global pandemic is a craven use of political power for partisan gain and it’s exactly what Reynolds is doing. Her office has also rolled back environmental regulations for hog farms — suspending fines and violations. Apparently, Reynold’s respects hogs more than she respects the constitutional rights of women.

At her news conference on March 30, Reynold’s repeated her concern that a shelter-in-place order would disrupt the economic supply chain for Iowa businesses. Her concern over the Iowa economy is truly inspirational. Maybe if Scheels also offered abortions, women could finally have our rights respected in this state. Maybe if our bodies birthed guns, the health care we so desperately need would finally be deemed essential.

lyz.lenz@thegazette.com; 319-368-8513

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