Abortion debate without merit


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The recent budget debate has brought the state Legislature to a standstill. Today's environment of hyper-partisanship greets this development as no great surprise.

Recent debates over the scope and role of government are intense and often deeply personal in nature — the quality of life and well-being of many people depend greatly on a wide number of government services.

However, the issue this go around is not education funding, food aid, or highway funding — it's abortion.

This debate is without merit and is little more than political ploy.

Republicans in the Legislature, rather than simply fulfill their responsibility to govern, have decided to hold up the state budgeting process so that they can force a debate on the merits of abortion.

This is perplexing for a number of reasons. Chief among them is that under current state law, no public funds can be used to fund abortions, except in the rare case that a doctor has deemed the procedure medically necessary and the woman who needs the procedure lacks the ability to pay for it.

Republicans defend this maneuver (which has pinned the fate of the Iowa budget to abortion) by arguing that it is their duty as office holders to wage this debate.

In what way would the state of Iowa benefit from making it more difficult for poor women to access a medically necessary (and quite likely a life-saving) procedure? I can't think of one.

In 2010 (the last year for which data are available), the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 156,000 women in the state of Iowa not eligible for Medicare lacked health insurance. That is more than a full 10 percent of the entire female population of the state.

Obviously, it's possible some of these women do not lack the funds to purchase insurance and have forgone the purchasing of insurance for other reasons. But for many of these women, however, they do not have insurance because they cannot afford it. In those cases, it is also highly likely that they will not be able to cover out-of-pocket medical costs either.

Further information from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals the adult poverty rate among women in the state of Iowa is 14 percent. And when you couple that with the evidence that the largest segment of the population without insurance are those earning less than $36,000, it becomes evident that poverty and a lack of health insurance are tied closely together.

The current law is designed to help these poor, uninsured women obtain life-saving medical treatment.

If Republicans were to actually succeed, poor women who could not afford a potentially life-saving procedure would be forced to go without. Under no other circumstance would entertaining such a possibility be considered anything but lunacy.

I understand and sympathize with the position of abortion opponents — in an ideal world, no one would ever need an abortion. But in the real world, sometimes carrying a pregnancy to term poses a demonstrable threat to the life of the mother.

Abortion opponents brand themselves as pro-life, but the veracity of that brand must be called into question in this case. The law as written exists to make sure that poor pregnant women do not needlessly die only because they cannot afford a medically necessary procedure.

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