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Should Iowans worry about the proposed abortion ban?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | FEBRUARY 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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YES

It may only be past subcommittee — which is the legislative equivalent of merely submitting a résumé — but Iowans shouldn’t rest easy.

Approved by two out of three members of a House Human Resources subcommittee, House File 153, which defines human life as beginning at conception, will probably not pass into law. However, it’s still a chilling example of the recent attempts to clamp down on abortion rights in Iowa and across the nation.

Between attempts to exclude certain abortions from federal coverage by redefining rape (thankfully stifled by vociferous backlash) and the U.S. House-approved measure to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding, anti-abortion sentiment has hit a feverish pitch.

Even if the more outrageous bills fail, their sheer consideration indicates a political landscape hostile to abortion rights.

A cursory glance at the Iowa House of Representatives bears this out. Even though he has yet to overtly support the universal ban, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, has encouraged lawmakers to swiftly pass a ban on late-term abortions (excepting those necessary to save the life of the mother).

This ban continues to languish in subcommittee, as the members who forwarded the personhood bill believe that the late-term ban would sanction earlier abortions — a terrifying indication of how far to the anti-abortion side the congressional discourse has shifted.

While the Democrat-dominated Senate may quash large-scale restrictions of abortion access, repeated attempts to force the matter are disconcerting. As legislative sentiment slides to the right, smaller infringements on reproductive rights seem almost innocuous.

In his most prominent work, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, historian Thomas Frank espouses the notion that the right wing uses “culture war” fixations (such as gay marriage and abortion) to bring out voters, even though these issues remain fundamentally static. Abortion bans will never succeed, Frank argues, and the abortion debate only ensures that social conservatives will elect their brethren to pass fiscally conservative laws.

As cynical as that may be, I hope he’s right. This bill’s very existence is extremely unsettling.

— Shay O’Reilly

NO

No need to worry; it’s just two people.

An Iowa House subcommittee, armed with infinite wisdom and a nonexistent and exhaustive list of accomplishments in the field of theological science, passed House File 153, which declares that human life begins at conception (Note: Conception was a vital part of my upbringing; the memories made in that womb will forever be a geyser of inspiration).

By anyone’s standards, this has about as much of a chance of passing into law as President Obama’s inevitable campaign for kingship. Keep in mind that the legislators responsible for this bill really put the “sub” in “subcommittee” — there are only three people total. That means that if any two of them come to any scholarly conclusion that, say, Dora the Explorer is an anchor baby parasite that needs to be deported, their declarations will make national headlines and provide local opinion writers something to write about other than the prospective corn yield. But nothing will come of it.

If you’re worried that Iowa is so (I regret to use the word) conservative (how stigmatized can an ideology get?) that it would actually consider branding abortions and miscarriages as murder, let me help to put your mind at ease.

Iowa is actually quite liberal, despite our persistent caricatures from the rest of the country. I mean, we have a Democratic majority in the state Senate, blue-state designation in five of the last six elections, and Studio 13.

Compared with Montana and South Dakota, two states that have voted down similar proposed legislation, we’re basically Amsterdam.

What’s more concerning is that these two legislators either legitimately believe this has the slightest chance of passing or are consciously wasting everyone’s time. But as far as the potential for concrete consequences of House File 153, there won’t be much.

Just try not to encourage these two.

— Chris Steinke


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