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Northwest Iowa Republican offers abortion bills in Senate

Baby in WombState Sen. David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan) this week offered up two bills relating to abortion. One places restrictions on “medical abortions” – those induced by use of abortifacient drugs – and the other requires a 72-hour informed consent period prior to having an abortion.

Senate File 11 defines “medical abortion” as the use of a medication including but not limited to mifepristone or ulipristal acetate to terminate a pregnancy, limits that these types of abortions may only be performed in-person by a licensed physician. It also requires these abortions be performed in a clinic or hospital “with the capacity to provide surgical intervention in cases resulting in an incomplete abortion or severe bleeding.”

The bill also establishes penalties for violating the bill. A physician who knowingly performs a medical abortion in violation of the bill is guilty of a serious misdemeanor and is subject to revocation of licensure pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 148.

A serious misdemeanor is punishable by confinement for no more than one year and/or a fine of at least $315, but not more than $1,875.

Senate File 12 establishes new chapter (146A) in the Iowa Code, requiring “voluntary and informed consent” to an abortion, specifying the consent must be completed at least 72 hours prior to an abortion. The informed consent will be given orally and in written form and will consist of the following under the proposed legislation:

  • the name of the physician who will perform or induce the abortion,
  • medically accurate information relating to the decision of whether or not to undergo the abortion,
  • the medical risks to the woman associated with the abortion,
  • alternatives to the abortion,
  • how the physician may be reached,
  • the location of the hospital,
  • the gestational age of the child at the time the abortion is to be performed or induced, and
  • and the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the child at the time of the abortion.

The bill would also require the woman be given, in person, printed materials provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health that describe the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus at two-week gestational increments. The printed materials will also include the following “prominently displayed” statement:

The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.

The bill would also require the woman be provided with printed materials provided by IDPH that describe the various methods of abortion relevant to the stage of pregnancy, as well as the medical risks commonly associated with each abortion method. The woman will also be provided an opportunity to view an active ultrasound of the child, and to hear the child’s heartbeat, if it is audible.

Prior to an abortion being performed or induced at or beyond 22 weeks’ gestational age, the woman will be given printed materials provided by IDPH that offer information “on the possibility of the abortion causing pain to the [child].” The woman will also be given, in person, printed materials provided by IDPH explaining alternatives to abortion she may wish to consider, including the agencies, programs, and services available to assist her.

The bill would also require the woman be informed in writing with materials provided by IDPH explaining that the father of the unborn child is liable to assist in the financial support of the child, even in instances where the father has offered to pay for the abortion.

Johnson was unavailable Wednesday to discuss the bills. But, a number of lobbyists have already begun to file their positions.

The Iowa Catholic Conference has come out in support of both bills. The Iowa League of Women Voters and the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault have both come out against both bills.

Personhood Iowa, which does not currently have registered lobbyists at the Statehouse, has analyzed the bills, as well. In a statement Wednesday afternoon, its communications director, Rebekah Maxwell, said that while the pro-life group appreciates legislative efforts to end the practice of abortion, it does not feel either bill has that goal in mind.

“Bills that pursue the goal of ‘safer’ abortions, however well-intentioned, pursue an impossible end,” Maxwell said. “Even if an abortion is performed in a hospital, by a doctor, with a 72-hour waiting period, it is still an abortion – a procedure that is by definition, dangerous for women and fatal for their babies. As such, there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ abortion.”

She also noted that while Iowa women “deserve all the medical information and protections SF 12 would ensure they receive,” Personhood Iowa believes they and their unborn children “deserve better than abortion.”

“SF 12 contains one very important line (page 10, lines 6-8): ‘The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being,’” she continued. “The bill suggests that this statement be printed and given to women before an abortion procedure takes place.”

“I suggest that SF 12 be amended to this statement – and only this statement – since no procedure that ‘will terminate the life of a … human being’ can be considered lawful.”