Des Moines, IA— Anti-abortion politicians in Des Moines began launching attacks against reproductive rights Monday during the first day of the 2021 legislative session.
In opening remarks, majority leaders in the Iowa House and Senate reinforced their intentions to further decimate reproductive freedom and health care in the state, priming elected officials for a constitutional amendment that strips Iowans of the right to safe and legal abortion. Currently, abortion is available in Iowa and the right to abortion is protected by the state constitution. State lawmakers in recent years have steadily made abortion access more difficult while undermining access to contraception and health care services that prevent unintended pregnancy.
“It’s unacceptable that instead of focusing on Iowans’ urgent needs during this global pandemic, anti-abortion politicians are attacking Iowans' health care on the first day they are back at the capitol,” said Jamie Burch Elliott, Iowa Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa. “For years, politicians have been laser focused on taking away Iowans’ reproductive freedoms. Planned Parenthood supporters stand ready to make our voices heard to protect the health of all Iowans, including access to safe, legal abortion. We call on our lawmakers to prioritize access to health care, support our communities during the pandemic and protect our democracy, rather than take away our constitutional rights.”
Background on Anti-Abortion Efforts in Iowa
Anti-abortion lawmakers in Iowa have dismantled reproductive health care across the state and chipped away at Iowans’ reproductive freedoms since taking full control of state government in 2016.
Anti-abortion lawmakers in Iowa have introduced more than 70 bills since 2011 aimed at reducing access to safe and legal abortion. We have seen politicians in Des Moines pass laws banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant. They have enacted a 20-week abortion ban, passed medically unnecessary forced waiting periods, and defunded Planned Parenthood from a now decimated state family planning program.
Legislation banning abortion in almost all cases has been introduced every year since 2012. And lawmakers in Des Moines have acted on measures during the past two years to amend the state’s constitution to remove its protections for Iowans’ right to abortion. Lawmakers last year stepped up their attacks, acting on an unprecedented number of anti-abortion bills while failing to adequately address the devastation of COVID-19.
Thanks to the strong voice of Planned Parenthood supporters, we stopped a constitutional amendment that would take away Iowans’ right to abortion. Last year, legislators did pass a forced 24-hour waiting period that places medically unnecessary requirements on patients and health care providers, while also requiring doctors to give patients medically inaccurate information. Currently Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are fighting this new law in state court.
Iowans face ramifications of dangerous health care policies
By defunding Planned Parenthood from the state family planning program in 2017 and forcing health centers to close across the state, legislators have drastically decreased family planning and birth control options for Iowans. The Legislature has also prevented transgender Iowans from being able to use Medicaid for gender confirming procedures. At the same time, the Trump administration forced Planned Parenthood’s exit from the federal Title X program in 2019, further diminishing Iowans’ access to sexual and reproductive health care and sex education.
As a result, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are skyrocketing across the state, a negative but expected outcome of dismantling the state’s once robust safety net of care. In the past four years, STIs in Iowa have increased by an alarming 21 percent, compared to a previous average yearly increase of about 6 percent. In Woodbury County alone, where Planned Parenthood was forced to close a health center due to defunding, gonorrhea cases increased 141% in one year.
These misguided policy decisions dramatically decrease access to birth control services and lead to more unintended pregnancies. According to a recent article in the Des Moines Register, abortions increased 25% from 2018 to 2019, reversing a decade-long downward trend.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa (PPAI) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission of fostering and preserving a social and political climate favorable to reproductive health. To meet this mission, PPAI engages in lobbying, issues education, and supporter mobilization.