House Speaker Kraig Paulsen has used his authority to transfer a bill that would ban so-called “late term” abortions to another committee after key Republicans on the House Human Resources Committee refused to support the bill. Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, downplays the idea this is an unusual move.
“I don’t think it’s a particularly extraordinary step. That’s something that happens on a semi-regular basis, at least in years past,” Paulsen says. “I guess it’s extraordinary in that it’s the first time I’ve done it this year.”
The bill was drafted in response to a Nebraska doctor’s vow to open a clinic in Council Bluffs after Nebraska’s new law which forbids abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy, unless the mother’s life or health is at risk. The bill pending in the Iowa legislature mirrors that new Nebraska law.
“That’s an important bill to Iowans. It addresses the situation in Council Bluffs with Dr. Carhart and late-term abortions,” Paulsen says. “And right, wrong or indifferent, the Human Resources Committee had failed to come to resolution yet on what to do with that and, like I say, it’s an important bill to Iowans and I put it in a committee that I think they’ll reach a quicker resolution and if they don’t, it’s funnel proof.”
Legislators face a deadline, which they call a “funnel” at the end of next week. If a bill like the one that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy doesn’t clear a committee by Friday, March 4th, the bill is dead for the year. However, any bill that is pending in the Government Oversight Committee is exempt from that deadline.
Representative Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines who is a member of the Oversight Committee, says it’s not at all normal for this panel to consider a bill like the one Paulsen sent its way. “I was surprised to learn that Speaker Paulsen has given the Government Oversight Committee a new task and that’s taking up the topic of abortion which is really not a good fit for the Oversight Committee,” Petersen says.
The Government Oversight Committee recently has been involved in the investigation of questionable spending at the Iowa Association of School Boards and it typically brings in state agency leaders to more closely examine the operations of state government. Petersen says it’s “bizarre” for the panel to consider an abortion bill.
“Unfortunately, it’s just another example of how House Republicans are focusing more on divisive social issues instead of new opportunities for middle class families,” she says. Another bill that would ban all abortions has stalled in the House Human Resources Committee, too, and is unlikely to win approval by the March 4th deadline.