Norm Pawlewski

Norm Pawlewski

A bill that would require doctors to perform an ultrasound and offer to both show and describe the image to a woman seeking an abortion has cleared a subcommittee in the Iowa House. Norm Pawlewski, a lobbyist for the Iowa Right to Life Committee and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, is the former director of the Iowa Department of Human Services. He calls it a “health care bill.”

“It not only protects the mother, but it protects the physician as well,” Pawlewski says, “makes sure that what they’re doing is appropriate for the age of the gestation of the child.”

Tom Chapman, a lobbyist for the Iowa Catholic Conference, says it will help a woman make an “informed” decision about an abortion.

“If there are bad actors who are not doing this sort of procedure before an abortion, I think this bill would help with that,” Chapman says.

Erin Davison-Rippey, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, says performing an ultrasound is already standard practice for doctors, but having legislators dictate the conversation a doctor has with a patient is a step too far.

“It feels like an effort to shame a woman who has made a decision to end her pregnancy,” Davison-Rippey says. “This bill sends the message that we don’t trust a woman to make decisions about her health care and that we don’t trust a physician to provide appropriate information.”

If the bill becomes law, doctors who fail to offer to show and describe the ultrasound to a woman seeking an abortion could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, says it’s “dangerous” for legislators to set that kind of precedent.

“This is moving us backwards to believing that women don’t understand what happens when they become pregnant,” she says. “…This is shaming and it’s demeaning.”

Joel Fry

Joel Fry

Representative Joel Fry, a Republican from Osceola, says a doctor is seeing “two patients” when a pregnant woman is in his office.

“I believe that child has, needs, deserves to have the opportunity to also have a voice in this medical arena,” Fry says.

The bill has a strong chance of passing the Republican-led House this year, but it’s unlikely to become law. Democrats control the debate agenda in the Iowa Senate and the bill is not likely to be considered there.