If Iowa Republicans’ goal is to reduce the number of abortions in our state, they are failing.
After four years of unified Republican leadership in the Iowa Legislature and the governor’s office, the long decline in abortions has ended. The number of abortions reported by the state increased by about 25 percent between 2018 and 2019 after falling more than 50 percent over the previous decade, as first reported by the Des Moines Register.
Much of that increase is attributable to the state government’s decision to legislatively wreck effective programs to reduce unintended pregnancies. A spike in the abortion rate is an unintended yet completely foreseeable consequence of Iowa’s recent legislative record.
In 2017, then-Gov. Terry Branstad led the effort in Iowa to discontinue federal funding for family planning programs, part of a national campaign by GOP policymakers to defund abortion providers, which also offer contraceptives and many other services. Branstad’s policy led to the closure of one-third of Iowa’s Planned Parenthood clinics, which served thousands of patients.
In their fury over Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, anti-abortion politicians made it harder for Iowans to access all of the non-abortion services abortion providers offer.
Ever since they achieved total control of the state government’s legislative and executive branches in the 2016 elections, Republicans have relentlessly attacked Iowans’ reproductive rights. It’s a multifaceted attack, targeting both abortion and contraceptives.
Multiple times, the state’s abortion restrictions have been stymied by the courts, but legislators keep at it, wasting taxpayers’ time and money.
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Even in the final hours of the this year’s Iowa Legislature — a session marked by a lengthy pandemic suspension, a devastated economy and workforce, and the biggest civil rights movement in a generation — Republican legislative leaders found the time to advance an amendment to the Iowa Constitution holding that there is no right to an abortion.
Restricting abortion rights is contemptible on its own, but coupled with diminished access to contraceptives, it is an especially dangerous threat to women’s health and personal freedom. Iowa’s policy agenda caused more unintended pregnancies, and politicians are constantly devising new ways to try to deny women the right to end those unintended pregnancies.
This situation lends a lot of credence to the criticism that Iowa Republicans aren’t really interested in ending abortions — they’re just obsessed with regulating sex and controlling women’s bodies.
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