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Abortion plan draws fire from locals

BY MAX FREUND | DECEMBER 10, 2010 7:10 AM

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A day after one Iowa lawmaker announced plans to tighten abortion regulations, local legislators and women's advocates said the change is unlikely and unnecessary.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said he plans to introduce a bill during the first week of the legislative session designed to shorten the amount of time after conception in which a women can have an abortion.

Iowa law allows women to have an abortion before their 27th week of pregnancy, but Windschitl's bill aims to limit that to 15 to 20 weeks.

"If I could make [abortions illegal], that would be the ultimate goal, but right now is not the right time to pursue an all-out ban in the state of Iowa," Windschitl said. "It is a step-by-step process. The biggest concern right now is to make sure we close loopholes in our law to allow late-term abortions in Iowa."

But other lawmakers are skeptical the bill would have any chance of getting past the Senate.

"The Senate is made up of Democrats, and they are certainly not in favor of infringing on a woman's right to choose," said State Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City. "The House can be as pro-life as they want to be, but it isn't going to affect what the Senate will do."

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City concurred with Mascher, calling it "very bad" if the state attempted to interfere with the affairs of a woman and her doctor.

And while the bill may lead to political conflict, local Iowa City women's groups are more concerned with what it could mean for victims of crimes.

"I think that there are all kinds of circumstances including situations where there was rape or incest, in which different determinations may be made according to each individual," said Karla Miller, the executive director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program in Iowa City. "I think arbitrarily picking whether it will be 20, 24, or 27 weeks just as an abstract piece of legislation is not going to really take into consideration the reality of circumstances that a woman might be in."

And for some women, those circumstances may be life-threatening.

Abbey Fairbanks, a University of Iowa clinical assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology, said making a ban on abortions after 15 weeks is dangerous.

"It is after that point that if we see something that is terribly wrong with that fetus, we can make a decision about that," she said.

Fairbanks said abortions occurring after 20 weeks make up only 1 percent of all abortions each year, and they are usually made for serious medical reasons that involve the life of the mother.

But Windschitl said he is confident that the majority of Iowans are in favor of eliminating late-term abortions all together.

And while some UI students said they were against the idea of eliminating abortions, one UI freshman, Maryam Bakare said six months was too long to allow abortions.

"I know a friend who was months premature, and she is living now," she said. "Imagine if someone had aborted her. Why would you carry a baby that far?"


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