By Craig Robinson
Following the historic elections of 2010, the pro-life community in Iowa set some modest goals for the upcoming legislative session. They wanted to prevent a well-known late-term abortionist, LeRoy Carhart, from opening a clinic in Iowa, and they wanted to outlaw telemed abortions. Telemed abortions are where a woman seeking an abortion consults with a doctor over a webcam. After the online consultation, the physician can electronically dispense the abortion drug RU486 without ever having seen or examined the woman in person.
Iowa pro-lifers had a good reason to be optimistic. A majority of the public found the type of abortions performed by Carhart to be gruesome. Iowans were also troubled by the telemed abortion practice. In addition to having the support of the public, for the first time in twelve years, a Republican occupied the governor’s office. Not only was the new governor a Republican, but he is also the same guy who had signed every piece of pro-life legislation in the state’s history.
It seemed passing pieces of pro-life legislation was well within the realm of possibility. In December, Kraig Paulsen, the new Republican Speaker of the House, and the various pro-life groups in the state, were all on board with the plan to stop Carhart and telemed abortions. They all knew it would be tough getting these two pieces of legislation through the State Senate, but nobody expected that the biggest obstacle to passing pro-life legislation this session would be a handful of freshmen Republican legislators.
Despite the public’s desire to prevent Carhart from moving into the state and ending Planned Parenthood’s telemed abortion pilot program, some legislators demanded that the legislature focus on passing a personhood bill instead. That dynamic would not only bog down the pro-life legislation in the Iowa House, but it also turned the pro-life community against itself.
The all or nothing approach that some in the pro-life community demanded that the legislature pursue led us to the point where we are today. Ultimately, nothing was done prevent Carhart from moving his practice into Iowa. Nothing was done to end the ridiculous practice of telemed abortions either. The personhood bill, while a worthy goal, lacked the necessary support even in the Republican dominated Iowa House, yet instead of focusing on what could be accomplished, some instead persisted on focusing on what they couldn’t accomplish.
I’m sympathetic to those who are frustrated with the pace at which pro-life goals are achieved. I also think a personhood bill is a noble goal. However, sacrificing two critical and necessary pieces of legislation because a few people within the pro-life ranks wanted to take an all or nothing approach has left us with everything that the people of Iowa trusted we would stop.
While focus on the personhood bill did not prevent Republicans from passing legislation in House, it did change the entire focus of the debate. Instead of putting pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and pro-life Democrat legislators like Joe Seng, Tom Rielly, and Tom Hancock, we instead were focused on Republicans in the House.
While other states were defunding Planned Parenthood and passing late term abortions bans, the pro-life community here was at war with itself. It’s stunning to think that in December of 2010, everyone agreed on a plan of action. Now, six months later we don’t have anything to show for it, except hard feelings and deep wounds that may never heal.
In this case, the perfect was the enemy of the good, and so evil won out.
Somewhere in western Iowa, Mike Gronstal is probably laughing.
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