On Monday there was a digital summit on “Reproductive Justice” hosted by Our Voices Iowa 2020. Chelsea Chism-Vargas of Planned Parenthood North Central States was on the call, along with Jeanina Juanita Messerly, an honoree of Planned Parenthood North Central States and Kenyora Parham, with End Rape on Campus.
One of the topics they discussed was efforts by pro-life politicians in Iowa’s legislature to protect unborn babies.
Messerly said most people listening to the call realize they’ve been impacted by “calculated efforts to strip women and nonbinary folks and others” from receiving fundamental reproductive care. These are orchestrated attacks on “us and our families” and, she said, cause so much emotional harm in the center of a global pandemic where space is needed to heal now more than ever.
“So I’m very thankful for organizations that are continuing to fight for us,” she said.
Chism-Vargas took the opportunity to discuss at length the emergency proclamation in which Gov. Kim Reynolds banned nonessential, elective surgical procedures in Iowa. Reynolds said that the ban includes surgical abortions. But there is much confusion about whether surgical abortions are allowed in Iowa right now or not after attorneys with the state and opposing organizations reached an “agreement.”
Chism-Vargas took exception to the state’s contention that surgical abortions are not an essential healthcare service.
“However, the truth is surgical abortions are some of the most timely healthcare out there,” she said. “So just that is lack of information from the Reynolds administration.”
The other concern with surgical abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic is that personal protective equipment is being used for abortions when it could be preserved for us treating COVID-19 patients.
“Planned Parenthood at their core is a healthcare organization, so they are 100 percent on board on battling COVID-19 with the rest of the world,” Chism-Vargas said. “They’re using only the PPE that they need for their services as well.”
She then added that Reynolds has a record of attempting to strip abortion access from Iowans and a “long history of attacks” on sexual and reproductive healthcare in Iowa.
“To just look at a snapshot is 100 percent inadequate,” Chism-Vargas said.
She noted how Reynolds supported Planned Parenthood being pulled from the Iowa Family Planning Services, meaning Planned Parenthood is unable to receive state funding. She noted Reynolds supported a 72-hour waiting period on abortions, which Chism-Vargas called “absolutely medically unnecessary.”
She added that Reynolds signed the 6-week abortion ban and is now leading the charge for the abortion neutrality amendment.
“So we really need to look at the entire picture of what Gov. Reynolds is doing and she is attempting to again ban abortion in the midst of a crisis when folks are already dealing with enough, now they deal with their own governor threatening their healthcare on top of an already threatening healthcare situation,” Chism-Vargas said. “These are extreme measures not just for Iowans, but for the country.”
The fight being displayed by pro-life Iowans, Chism-Vargas said, should be recognized as not normal.
“It’s important Iowans realize that this is not normal,” she said. “For your government to be continuously attacking sexual and reproductive healthcare, sex educations, this is not normal. Iowans are not having a normal experience when it comes to access to sexual and reproductive healthcare in Iowa.”
Iowa, she said, is used as an “incubator” to test measures that pro-life Americans would like to see in effect throughout the country.
“It reveals that we need a change in leadership,” Chism-Vargas said.