February 14, 2016

Abortion issue reemerges at statehouse

Thirteen Republicans and one Democrat on a House committee have voted to ban abortions after the 20th week of prenancy and only allow exceptions when the mother’s life is at risk.

The House Ways and Means Committee jettisoned a Senate proposal which would have set up a state permit process for clinics, with rules written in such a way as to prevent a Nebraska doctor who performs late-term abortions from opening a clinic in Council Bluffs. Representative Dawn Pettengill, a Republican from Mount Auburn, said the Senate bill didn’t go far enough. 

“We are addressing it again to keep Dr. Carhart out of our state,” Petengill said. “The bill that the senate passed only kept him out of Council Bluffs. It didn’t keep him out of the state.”

Representative Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, told her colleagues last night that there were more important matters for legislators to consider.

“Democrats came back today focused on balancing the state budget to avoid a government shut-down,” Petersen said. “Instead, we’ve waited around all afternoon for your party to get enough of your members here to pass a divisive issue.”

Representative Anesa Kajtazovic, a Democrat from Waterloo, also opposed the bill.

“This is not abortion on demand,” Kajtazovic said. “These are pregnancies that are wanted by families and by these women and for you to be politicizing such a private decision is just so sad to see.”

Representative Pettengill ridiculed the two women for reading from written notes during hte committee meeting.

“I don’t have a prepared statement, but I can assure you that this is not about politics,” Pettengill said. “It is about life and the ability of a fetus at 20 weeks and over to live outside of the womb on its own.” 

Representative Petersen suggested the proposal would even classify an emergency caesarian as an abortion.

“It’s time to focus on balancing the state budget and putting Iowans back to work instead of attacking young mothers-to-be and doctors faced with unthinkable situations that none of us would ever want to face,” Petersen said. 

Pettengill said in the early 1980s a fetus may have been considered “viable” at 24 weeks, but that standard has changed because of medical advancements.

“A baby is able to be saved a lot sooner and live outside the womb with life support,” Pettengill said. 

The lone Democrat to vote for the bill in committee was Representative Dan Muhlbaue of Manilla. 

The reworked proposal is scheduled for House debate on Wednesday.

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