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Letter to the Editor: Oppose Iowa Senate File 471

Posted: Wed, Apr 5, 2017 11:52 AM

(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Clara Muggli-Toyloy of Freeport):

"I am writing to express my outrage over Iowa Senate File 471, the 20-week abortion ban that is currently making progress in our legislature.  I urge Representative Bergan to vote against the bill when it goes up for a vote on the floor of the House (though he has already voted "yes" in the Human Resources Committee).

In Governor Branstad's "Condition of the State" speech back in January, he spoke of working towards a "smaller and smarter government."  I can't understand how Branstad and the Republicans claim to hate sloppy government overreach, and yet spend so much time trying to pass laws that intrude on the most private corners of a woman's life.  SF 471 is a total ban on abortions after 20 weeks, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly (it does allow an exception to save the life of the mother).

Fewer than 1 percent of abortions in Iowa and nationwide are performed after 20 weeks (this bill would affect about 51 pregnancies a year, according to the bill's manager, Rep. Shannon Lundgren).  When a woman does need an abortion later in pregnancy, it's often in a complicated circumstance such as a risk to the mother's health or a severe fetal anomaly. 

SF 471 would force a mother to carry her baby to term, even if she learned that her baby could not possibly survive after birth.  Please imagine how traumatic it would be to have to politely endure a stream of congratulations and comments about your pregnancy from well-meaning strangers, all the while holding the terrible knowledge that your baby will die within days or even hours after birth.  I am disturbed that our state legislators believe that they—and not licensed medical professionals—should be able to determine the medical options available to a woman facing one of the most painful times of her life.  Our lawmakers need to stay out of these difficult and, ultimately, private medical decisions.

Our state lawmakers have spent countless hours debating this bill or others like it, which would affect 51 pregnancies a year.  Last year 9,000 Iowa children were abused or neglected.  Over 100,000 children lived with hunger.  I believe our legislators should instead be spending their time ensuring life is safer, healthier, and more prosperous for vulnerable Iowans.  It is not their job to meddle in the difficult medical decisions that should be between a woman, her family, and her doctor.

This 20-week abortion ban, like others in the country (some of which have already been struck down by the courts) is a clear attack on our constitutional right to an essential medical procedure.  I don't wish to downplay the moral difficulty of the decision to have an abortion, but I don't believe that lawmakers should be able to take away the option.  Additionally, the politicking devoted to this issue pulls away time, energy, dollars, and publicity from the many more pressing needs facing our country and our state. 

As a woman, a mother of two young children, and a citizen of Iowa, I urge Representative Bergan and his colleagues to re-focus their energy away from regulating women's private medical decisions and towards improving life for the thousands of Iowa children who live with poverty, hunger, or abuse and so desperately need our help.