An Iowa Senate subcommittee passed a bill that would require an abortion doctor or technician performing the following prior to a woman providing informed consent to an abortion:
*Perform an ultrasound
*Provide a description of what the ultrasound is depicting
*Display ultrasound images so women may see them
*Locate the heartbeat so women may hear it.
*Provide a medical description of what the ultrasound shows
A woman is allowed to not watch the ultrasound or hear the heartbeat. If that happens, neither the woman or the tech would be subject to penalty. There is also a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed in most cases.
The bill is sister legislation from a Kentucky law. The Supreme Court refused to take up a challenge to that law.
The subcommittee opened with a lengthy question-and-answer session between Senators Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) and Zach Whiting (R-Spirit Lake). After about 20 minutes, the public was able to provide input on the bill.
Chuck Hurley of The FAMiLY Leader spoke in support of the bill.
“Some of us have been around since before Roe v. Wade,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot of arguments on this issue. The one thing that I don’t think anybody in this room can argue away is that that little child in her mother’s womb is a baby. And so for you to try to assist in making a decision on a life-and-death decision about that baby is to be commended. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Connie Ryan of the Interfaith Alliance said she strongly opposes the bill.
“We believe strongly that women have the right to make their own health care decisions and for the government and religion to not interfere in that process,” she said. “I’m deeply disturbed by the lack of knowledge and information in the questions and the answers that were given to those questions.”
Ryan said this bill is a clear attempt to interrupt the process of allowing women, their doctors and their families to make decisions.
“It is really an abomination to the rights of women,” she said of the bill.
She said she’s really tired of hearing criticism of the justices, saying they are not activist judges, they’re just doing their job.
Maggie DeWitte of Iowans For Life said the bill is about providing information to women.
“Information is power,” she said. “Especially for a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy who deserves all the facts and all of the information,” she said. “This bill does not, however, force women to receive information if she so chooses.”
DeWitte said she’s heard from women who said they weren’t provided all of the facts and were told they were not carrying a baby, but instead a clump of cells.
“Once they were made aware of the facts they were devastated by the decision to end the life of their unborn child,” DeWitte said. “If we truly care about women, we cannot deny them basic information in order to make a life decision that they have to live with the rest of their life.”
Jim Lamb, a life advocate for Lutheran Family Services, said he is very much in favor of the bill.
“For almost 40 years I’ve been an advocate for unborn little boys and girls,” he said. “During that time, I’ve also been an advocate for the moms who are carrying those little boys and girls.”
He talked about calls a hotline has received for post-abortive men and women.
“We received just over 300 calls every month,” he said. “Some of the things we heard, these are their words, not mine: ‘I wish I hadn’t,’ ‘my doctor made it sound so easy,’ ‘they told me it was only blood,’ ‘the nurse said it would just be tissue.’ And then this haunting question almost always came after that, ‘why didn’t someone tell me?
“I guess that’s the question I would pose for those who oppose this bill, why don’t you want to tell them? Why don’t you want to have them understand the true reality of who they are carrying? Why don’t you want them to hear that heartbeat? Why don’t you want them to have time to get all of the facts and consider this life and death decision that they’re making for their own child?”
He said everyone in the room likely knows when women considering an abortion see an ultrasound, she almost always decides to keep the baby.
“So, is that what you’re afraid of, that a woman would exercise her right to choose by choosing life instead of death,” Lamb said. “I’m afraid not because that’s a very anti-choice kind of position to take. ‘Why didn’t someone tell me?’ We’re in favor of this legislation so that fewer and fewer women would have to be haunted by that question.”
Jane Robinette, a resident of Urbandale, said she thinks it is offensive to doctors and women that the legislature feels it needs to specify what informed consent entails.
“It doesn’t respect women, it doesn’t respect the relationship between women and their doctors and it’s just offensive all the way around,” she said.
Jamie Burch Elliott of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa and Planned Parenthood North Central States said the group opposes the legislation because it dictates conversation between a patient and a doctor.
“That’s an inappropriate and dangerous precedent to set,” she said. “Doctors and their patients and certainly not politicians should determine the healthcare needs of their patients. I think we learned today, if nothing else, legislators are not physicians and do not belong in exam rooms with patients.”
Burch Elliott said women have thought through their decision to have an abortion carefully, so the 72-hour waiting period is just a barrier for women.
“This bill is demeaning and disrespectful to Iowans because it assumes that they have not thought about their decision carefully and thoroughly,” she said. “And it’s insulting to doctors and nurses.”
Daniel Zeno of the ACLU spoke against the bill. He said the 72-hour waiting period has already been struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court. And the forced-view, forced-listen ultrasound is turning a right into a requirement.
“It requires a doctor medical provider to say words,” he said. “We believe that this is not about informed consent, this is about forcing women to listen to words that the state has decided they should listen to and not what their doctor thinks they should listen to.”
He said it’s a concerning bill in terms of the constitution.
“The government is requiring medical providers to speak, to say words,” he said.
Daniel Sunne of The FAMiLY Leader noted Iowa has a three-day waiting period before a marriage, a three-day waiting period before adoption and a 90-day waiting period for a divorce.
“Abortion is more permanent than any of those conditions,” Sunne said. “You can’t get a kid back. We think this bill creates reasonably informed consent protections.”
Sen. Jake Chapman (R-Adel) was in the meeting, though he wasn’t part of the subcommittee. He offered some of his thoughts while reserving others for floor debate.
“This is a very intriguing conversation,” Chapman said. “The legislature, we require a lot of different things when it comes to healthcare. We do that all the time. I find it interesting that we have a 72-hour wait period if you’re going to have a child and then adopt that child out, we’ve got a 90-day wait period if you’re going to get a divorce, we’ve got 72 hours if you’re going to get married. Do we not think that those folks have contemplated that beforehand? Of course. But these are life-altering decisions that shouldn’t be made in just the whim of a decision. And so I think ti’s absolutely appropriate to have a wait period.”
Iowa is one of a few states that does not have a waiting period for abortions at all.
“The court did get it wrong,” Chapman said. “They absolutely got it wrong. And frankly, I don’t know of a nicer word than to call it judicial activism, I’ve kind of scaled it back from judicial tyranny.”
Chapman said this bill allows a woman to be totally informed.
“I don’t know how you can see an ultrasound, how you can hear that heart beating, and still believe that’s just tissue,” he said. “I do believe in autonomy — a woman’s right to autonomy. But we must recognize that there are two lives involved in this conversation — the life of the mother and the life of that child. Separate circulatory systems, separate DNA, separate brains, separate heartbeats. And that is the piece that often gets overlooked in this conversation.”
Senators Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) and Whiting signed in support of the bill. Petersen did not.