Twenty-six members of the Iowa Senate have taken action to make a bill that would ban abortions in Iowa after the 20th week of pregnancy eligible for senate debate on Thursday. It is now up to Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal to decide if the bill is debated.
For the past several months Gronstal has repeatedly said he would bring the bill up for debate in the senate if it cleared committee. The 26 senators signed what’s called a “withdrawal petition” to bring the bill out of a senate committee, where it had stalled. Supporters say it’s crucial to get the bill passed so a Nebraska doctor who can no longer perform late-term abortions in that state is barred from opening a clinic in Council Bluffs.
“I support efforts in my hometown to keep Dr. Carhart out of Council Bluffs,” Gronstal said.
Gronstal was asked repeatedly this morning on the senate floor if he would bring the proposed abortion ban up for debate, and Gronstal read a prepared statement every time the question was asked. Late last month Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan — a Democrat — sent senators a letter, urging them to take action so Council Bluffs would not become the home of a clinic that specializes in late-term abortions. While Gronstal began his prepared statement by saying he agrees with the mayor, he also expressed support for abortion rights.
“I believe that a woman has a right to make her own personal, private decision about abortion without the interference of politicians,” Gronstal said.
And Gronstal expressed a sentiment that could be interpreted as opposition to a late-term abortion ban.
“Second trimester abortions are almost always a decision by a woman that desperately wants to be pregnant but something has gone tragically wrong with her pregnancy,” Gronstal said, reading from his statement. “Making a decision about what to do at that point is a gut wrenching decision that should be made by a woman, her family and her doctor.”
Gronstal’s statement of support for abortion rights coupled with his statement in support of efforts in Council Bluffs to block the opening of a clinic that performs late-term abortions prompted Senator Roby Smith to ask Gronstal whether he’d let the senate debate the late-term abortion ban.
“Would that be a yes or a no?” Smith asked.
Gronstal didn’t answer that question directly and instead read his prepared statement again. Smith, a Republican from Davenport, considered it a sign.
“I think you’ve proven that you probably will not bring up this bill,” Smith said, “that you continue to not answer the question.”
Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, blasted Gronstal.
“The only person our constitution gives the right to veto a bill is the governor. Senator Gronstal, you are not the governor,” Chelgren said. “…We need to deal with this. This is something that the people of Iowa have asked us to do and this is something that a majority of the senators have asked us to do.”
Two Democrats — Senators Tom Hancock of Epworth and Joe Seng of Davenport — joined the 24 Republicans in the Iowa Senate in signing the petition which makes the late-term abortion ban eligible for senate debate. The bill has already passed the House on a 60-39 vote. Governor Branstad has indicated he’d sign it into law if it gets to his desk.
Listen to today’s discussion: SenateMay3 12:39 MP3
Read Gronstal’s statement below.
Senate Leader joins Mayor in opposition to new clinic in Council Bluffs
A Statement by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal after filing of withdrawal petition for House File 657
“I share Mayor Tom Hanahan’s opposition to making Council Bluffs the home for a new clinic that specializes in late-term abortions. I support efforts in my hometown to keep Dr. Carhart out of Council Bluffs.
“Throughout my years at the Statehouse, I have focused my efforts on making abortion less necessary, not making them more dangerous and difficult. I don’t like abortion.
“I also know that second trimester abortions are almost always a decision by a woman that desperately wants to be pregnant but something has gone tragically wrong with her pregnancy. Making a decision about what to do at that point is a gut wrenching decision that should be made by a woman, her family and her doctor. I believe that a woman has a right to make her own personal, private decision about abortion without the interference of politicians.”