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November 19th, 2010

LeRoy Carhart: A Legislative Response

By Dan Boddicker

The timing of “Dr.” LeRoy Carhart’s announcement of his intentions to put a late term abortion clinic in Council Bluffs after the November 2 elections was wise. The abortion issue has pretty much been off the radar screen since the election of Chet Culver in 2006. This election cycle primarily focused on fiscal policy and social policy was dominated only by the judicial retention vote.

Carhart’s plans to move his abortion business from an Omaha suburb to Council Bluffs present some interesting challenges for the pro-life community eager to stop him, and Senator Mike Gronstal may find yet another prominent social issue sitting firmly in his lap, one that could alienate him and his declining caucus even more from the voters of Iowa.

The reason for Carhart’s move to Iowa is due to recent laws passed by Nebraska’s legislature, which ban elective abortions after 20 weeks, citing the scientific fact that a baby’s nervous system is sufficiently developed to feel the pain of being dismembered, chemically burned or getting scissors shoved into the back of its skull. A law like this is bad for business, or so says Carhart.  Carhart claims late term abortions make up the majority of his business.

So how does Iowa respond? We already tolerate a city with the highest per capita abortion rate in America. Do we want a late term abortionist like LeRoy Carhart here? The sad fact of the matter is that, if there was no market for his grisly services, he wouldn’t be coming to Iowa. So while we work to stop him, we must also work to stop the demand for his “services.”
There are several options that the legislature, the Branstad administration, and the pro-life groups can pursue to thwart Carhart’s plans. They must work together if they hope for success.

Legislatively, the House can pass a bill making Iowa’s abortion laws like Nebraska’s.  The bill should be brought up and passed as quickly as possible and sent over to the Senate.  Senate Republicans should make this issue, along with the marriage amendment issue, their top two social-issue priorities. While they are working to bolster the House Republicans, efforts to cut and control spending, they need to get these social issues up for a vote. The closer Carhart gets to his ribbon cutting, the more pressure needs to be put on Gronstal to keep this menace out of his back yard. And like the Marriage Amendment, this issue is the one where senate tradition needs to be thrown out the window.

Rules exist for a reason, and it is high time that the written and adopted rules of the Senate prevail over the “good ol’ boy” agreement that has existed for decades not to use them.

Perhaps along with the post 20-week ban legislation, it’s time to revive “A-Woman’s-Right-To-Know” legislation. Those who are for “choice” should have no problem with “informed choice”, right?

Regulatory solutions may include the Certificate Of Need (CON) process.  Whether or not Carhart’s type of facility falls under the CON process will depend on what equipment Carhart will require in his facility and whether his activities are considered outpatient surgery.  If it does, then pressure needs to be put on the Department Of Public Health (DPH),and state health facilities panel to make sure that all the requirements are met and that the community actually has a need to have its unborn babies over 20 weeks killed. Governor Branstad must step up and make sure that his DPH Director makes sure that the law is followed.

The Appropriations process may also provide some opportunities to slow down or stop Carhart’s efforts. Perhaps this issue can be used to finally de-fund Planned Parenthood and any other facility that provides abortions or referrals. Most Iowans don’t want their tax dollars funding abortions and never have.   Funds could be directed to crisis pregnancy clinics to provide for ultrasound equipment so that these girls and women can see the life that is in them. Then they can make an educated choice, something that the abortion industry and abortion rights advocates fear the most.

Whatever the legislature does, it is time for the sleeping giant to reawaken and get the attention of the legislature. The lobbying muscles of the pro-life community that existed back in the 90’s have gotten flabby, and the knowledge of how to do grassroots lobbying has become foggy. It’s time for Iowa Right to Life, the Iowa Catholic Conference, the Iowa Christian Alliance, and the other pro-life and conservative groups to step up and fight for our unborn children.

Dan Boddicker is a former Iowa State Representative from Tipton, Iowa.  Boddicker served as the chairman of the House Human Resources committee.

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