A bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy is among the items that may be discussed this week at the statehouse.
The bill has cleared the House, but has stalled in the Government Oversight Committee in the Iowa Senate. Committee chairman Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, has said there’s not enough time left in the 2011 legislative session to thoroughly review the bill.
“It’s been my opinion that it was too complicated to do in that short a time,” Courtney says. “But we are considering it and we’re taking a hard look at it.”
Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan sent a letter to Courtney and the rest of the Iowa Senate last Thursday, urging senators to “take action” so Council Bluffs won’t become the home of a clinic that “specializes in later term abortions.” A Nebraska law banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy took effect last October and a Bellevue, Nebraska doctor who performs abortions announced he intended to open a clinic in Council Bluffs.
The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate — Senator Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs — has said he would allow the full senate to consider an abortion ban similiar to Nebraska’s if the proposal clears a senate committee. Senator Courtney, the committee chairman, is also the “majority whip” in the state senate, which means he’s part of the leadership team.
“I don’t think anybody wants this doctor to come into Council Bluffs,” Courtney says. “…”It’s really tough and we don’t have a lot of time to do this.”
This Friday, April 29, is the last scheduled day of the 2011 legislative session. Lawmakers can continue meeting after that, but they’ll no longer receive a daily allowance to cover living expenses. Until the legislature adjourns for the year, however, this bill to ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy is still eligible for debate.
“And we just haven’t made a decision yet,” Courtney says.
Legislators face a host of other key decisions in the coming days, as a final version of next year’s state budget is still unsettled. Governor Branstad, a Republican, has refused to accept budget outlines that do not appropriate money for the next two years. Democrats say it’s risky to draw up spending plans that far in advance, and they worry Branstad would be able to block any changes legislators might want to make in the plan for that second year. Branstad says he promised voters last year when he campaigned for a fifth term that he would restore financial stability to state government and two-year budgets are part of that.