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Updated: Gronstal sounds off on withdraw petition for ‘fetal pain’ abortion bill
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) has responded to a move by some state lawmakers to pull a bill that would prohibit late-term abortion out of committee and before the full Senate. House File 657 would prohibit certain abortion procedures after 20 weeks of gestation, while making allowances for some medical emergencies.
Gronstal said he is opposed to Nebraska-based abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart from opening a late-term abortion clinic in his hometown. However, he added that the decision to seek late-term abortion is the decision of the woman and her family.
Gronstal released this statement Tuesday morning following the filing, according to the Iowa Senate Press:
“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.”
The 24 Republican members of the Iowa Senate were joined by two Democratic members — Tom Hancock of Epworth and Joe Seng of Davenport — in a petition to force the bill out of the Government Oversight Committee, where it had been considered essentially dead for the session. Despite the efforts by the senators, however, Gronstal has ultimate say in what will be debated on the floor.
Although the bill, already approved by the Iowa House and favored by Gov. Terry Branstad, has been mostly known as legislation to prevent Carhart from opening a clinic in Council Bluffs, it contains additional language that explicitly states that the legislature recognizes that “life begins at fertilization.”
While the bill exempts certain “medical emergencies” from the 20-week threshold, it explicitly states that it “does not include a condition which is based on a claim or diagnosis that the pregnant woman will engage in conduct which would result in the pregnant woman’s death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” In other words, there is no exception for women who are suicidal as a result of their pregnancy, or who are afflicted with mental illness. There are also no exceptions in the bill for women who are raped or who become pregnant as a result of incest.
In addition, physicians who perform abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy would be required to “terminate the human pregnancy in the manner which, in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”
The bill lays out certain penalties for providers who do not file required paperwork (fines that escalate at 30-day intervals), makes physicians who violate the law guilty of Class C felonies and allow for certain extended family members, including biological fathers, to take civil action against physicians who act in violation of the proposed law. For the latter, the only exceptions to the biological father claim would be those men who impregnated a woman during the course of a rape or as an act of incest.
(Editor’s Note: Reporter Lynda Waddington contributed to this report. Post updated at 1 p.m. to make clear that Gronstal did not file the petition, but was responding to an act by other lawmakers.)