By Craig Robinson
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made national news in January when he announced that he wanted to deregulate the abortion industry in his state. More specifically, Governor Cuomo intends to end restrictions on late-term abortions in New York. Cuomo, who will be one of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 should he decide to run, is betting that a move to expand abortion services in his state would only help his national political aspirations.
Surprisingly, Cuomo’s push to make abortions more readily available in his state was controversial. Newspapers from all around the country noted that while the national trend in the states has been to limit abortions, Cuomo is advocating for the opposite. The Washington Post noted that 80 percent of Americans in a USA Today/Gallup poll said they opposed abortions in the third trimester. A columnist for The New York Daily News just a few days ago called it, “Cuomo’s big abortion mistake.”
New York is the state that already performs the second most abortions per year in the county. U.S. Census data shows that in 2008, the 153,110 abortions performed in New York represented 13 percent of all abortions performed in the county. So, how can advocating for abortion expansion be a mistake in a state like New York? Because science and health are on the side of the pro-life movement.
The New York Daily News columnist noted that a group of New York physicians went to the Governor’s office in Albany to inform him that the justification he is using for his push to expand abortion in the state is misguided. The group told that governor that preemies are often viable after just 24 weeks of pregnancy, and thus, if the mother’s health is at risk at or after the 24th weeks, doctors should deliver the baby instead of aborting it.
So, what does any of this have to do with Iowa besides the fact that Governor Cuomo is likely to start showing up here sooner than later?
Sadly, Governor Cuomo is trying to make his state more like Iowa when it comes to abortions laws. That’s right, currently New York has stricter regulations on late term abortions that Iowa does. More disturbing is that it appears that nothing will change in Iowa in the near future.
A handful of pro-life bills failed to advance out of committee before last week’s legislative funnel. The funnel is a self-imposed deadline that requires all bills to pass at least one standing committee in the House or Senate to remain eligible for consideration this year. The funnel does not pertain to budget bills and tax proposals.
That means the two personhood bills are dead until next January. A bill that would prevent Planned Parenthood from dispensing the abortion drug, RU-486, via Skype is also going nowhere, as is a bill that would outlaw late term abortions in Iowa.
These bills are dead for the legislative session, not because of the Democrat majority in the Iowa Senate, but because they couldn’t even pass out of the Human Resources Committee in the Republican controlled House of the Representatives.
There is plenty of blame to go around. There is a small, but very vocal, group of pro-life legislators and activists who fight bills such as the one that would ban Planned Parenthood from using Skype or webcams to dispense abortion drugs with more ferocity than Planned Parenthood does.
These are the same people, who disregard the fact that the number of abortions in Iowa has risen over the past 15 years, and instead argue for an all or nothing approach when it comes to abortion laws. Either ban abortion in its entirety, or do nothing but divide the pro-life movement, all while fundraising off of the tragedy.
The division within the pro-life community, which might be best described as a civil war, is the main culprit for why a conservative leaning state like Iowa has been unable to pass pro-life legislation since regaining control of the Iowa House and Governor’s office after the 2010 elections. While the fighting has been intense, those who demand the all-or-nothing approach have succeeded at dominating the discussion on social issues in Iowa.
Even though organizations like Iowa Right to Life have been trying to ban Planned Parenthood’s use of webcams to dispense abortion drugs without the patient being examined by a licensed doctor for the last three years, the media attention paid to the issue has been minimal. Most of the media attention when it comes to the abortion issues has been given to various personhood bills.
Despite whether or not you support the concept, personhood proposals have been controversial. A handful of state legislatures have passed personhood amendments only to see them be rejected by the voters in those state. Many of those proposals have still allowed exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mothers, but in Iowa those types of exceptions are deal breakers for those who are pushing this legislation. When the personhood backers say it’s all or nothing, they really mean it.
The political dynamic inside the right to life movement in Iowa is as fascinating as it is frustrating, but the ability to stymie any new regulation on the abortion industry is also facilitated by Republican legislative leaders as well as some social conservative leaders.
The mindset from one of the state’s more influential pro-family group is that they go for the “gold standard” first, then if that doesn’t work, then look at other approaches. Such an approach sounds reasonable, but is destined to fail when put into practice. There is a limited amount of time to get bills through the legislative process, and the decision to make the most controversial bill the focus of their work means that we are left with nothing.
Legislative leaders are also to blame. Just because a there is a split among the pro-life community in Iowa doesn’t give you license to do nothing. Governor Terry Branstad and Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen carry a great amount of influence due to the positions they hold, yet when it comes to what the legislature is or is not doing, both are nonchalant. Ask Branstad anything about the legislature, and he will give you the stock answer that he respects the legislative process. Ask Paulsen about an issue in a particular committee, and he basically says we will have to wait and see what happens in committee.
With all due respect, that’s not leadership. I’m not suggesting that Speaker Paulsen or Governor Branstad have to be advocates of every piece of pro-life legislation, but there are some issues where it would behoove them to get involved. Banning webcam abortions and passing a late term abortion ban would both be issues that they should be willing to put their weight behind.
Iowans should be embarrassed that the Governor of New York wants to make his state more like Iowa when it comes to abortion laws.
Iowans should be furious that a young girl can sit down in front of a computer screen to chat briefly with a abortionist and with the push of a button, be sent home with a drug that will wreak havoc on her body and cause to the death and discharge her baby.
Iowans should be outraged that a majority of other states have passed new laws that save lives, but no such laws have been passed in Iowa.
The ongoing feud between pro-life activists in the state isn’t good for the pro-life movement or babies living in their mother’s wombs. The only people who really win under the current scenario is Planned Parenthood and pro-choice legislators who can just keep their extreme pro-abortion views to themselves.
Edmund Burke is credited with the saying “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men do nothing.” That quote perfectly defines the current status of the pro-life movement in Iowa. Shame on us all.
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