Commentary Abortion

The 20-Week Abortion Myth

Ryan Swanek

Abortion ban legislation in Iowa and elsewhere is based on a myth that focuses on the 20th week of pregnancy at which an arbitrary line is drawn to restrict abortions past this time.

Much of print media in Iowa recently, including the Register and Nonpareil, have run extensive coverage about HF 657, a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  While I admire the Nonpareil covering actual news, news that would affect the lives of many Iowans, I’ve been quite disappointed in the lop-sidedness of the coverage.  It’s also been quite disheartening to see our City Council meetings filled to the brim with anti-abortion zealots fuming with anger. Yet, almost none of these attendees are even from our great city. 

Let’s get to the heart of the issue. This is not about babies. It’s about freedom and fundamental rights for women.  With the recent Republican takeover of the Iowa House of Representatives and the United States House of Representatives, this Party ran on a message of job creation, deficit reduction and cutting taxes.  The legislative results of these takeovers?  Attempting to shut down the federal government over the funding of Planned Parenthood and bills to ban abortion.  Instead of focusing on the issues that could help put Americans back to work and to ease the struggle of trying to survive such harsh economic times, these legislators, almost all of whom are elderly, white, and male, have decided that their misogyny should be front and center and take legislative form. 

Much has been written about LeRoy Carhart opening a clinic in Council Bluffs. This clinic is what has caused the uproar at these City Council meetings and even led to the writing of this bill itself. Let’s ignore for a minute how ridiculous it is to write legislation to prevent or force someone from coming into your State or community to practice legal medicine, but on the fact that any such clinic is unlikely to open and this issue is really a diversion. 

I had the opportunity to work for LeRoy Carhart in 2009-2010.  I’ve met over the course of my career tens of thousands of women who were seeking safe, legal abortion services.  Some of these women needed later abortions.  What seems to be lost in this debate is the actual human equation.  As I said in the beginning, this isn’t about babies; this is about freedom and women’s rights.  Have any of these legislators even asked the question, why would a woman seek an abortion after 20 weeks?  Have they thought to seek someone out to share their story?  If they did, they would never support this bill.

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Later abortion is a heart-wrenching decision which is never taken lightly.  I saw women travel thousands of miles with just the clothes on their backs, crying, distraught and broken, and the only hope they had left in their soul was that someone was there and able to help them through this situation.  Women who were faced with severely deformed fetuses, some of them with conditions incompatible with life.  I met children who had become pregnant as a result of incest or rape, women who were told lies by their physicians in order to deter them from abortion, women who were left in dire situations. The stories are abundant. 

The forgotten element here is the women.  Women need abortion; they need it to be safe, legal and available.  This bill isn’t rooted in any sort of good intention.  Its sole aim is to roll back the tide on Roe and decrease access to abortion.  The right-wing has been chipping away for decades now, and this is their newest mechanism.  HF 657 is a myth that focuses on the 20th week of pregnancy at which we must conclude that an arbitrary line must be drawn and restrict abortions past this time.  Who are these legislators to decide the fate of women’s lives?  Women will die, women’s lives will be destroyed, and forced pregnancy, which is tantamount to slavery, will result in unwanted births, the consequences of such births have always been shown to not end in the best of circumstances.

More children in institutions, foster homes, and dumpsters, this is what the Republicans want.  They don’t want to fund Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and various social programs that many of these women will need if forced to carry these pregnancies to term.  This proves that the Republicans only really care about these ‘babies’ when they’re in-utero.  This isn’t about babies or abortion; it’s about pandering to their base and aiming to score political points. 

Where has our American spirit gone?  I was under the impression that this country was founded on the principles of individual freedom, freedom from oppression, freedom from religious tyranny and some day, gender being no basis for discrimination.  Women have a right to control their lives, their health, and their reproductive systems. These false and arbitrary limits being placed on abortion hurt women and destroy lives and would just lead to more and more women being effectively forced into reproductive slavery. 

I implore the Iowa Senate to vote down this destructive measure.  I implore the Council Bluffs City Council to get back to doing the work they were elected to do instead of letting this time wasting spectacle continue.  Lastly, Mayor Hanafan, I’ve always supported you, but your recent comments on this measure are an outrageous embarrassment and oddly timed, as you had nothing to say on this issue until this past week.  Stand up for what’s right, pandering and posturing under pressure isn’t leadership it’s political impotence and shows that you lack any true character. 

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