House GOP endorses tough new abortion restrictions

Republicans in the Iowa House have voted for one of the strongest anti-abortion restrictions in the country, but critics warn the language may also prevent hospitals from following the wishes of patients who have do-not-resuscitate orders.

The proposal forbids taxpayer-funding for all abortions, including abortions for Medicaid patients who are rape or incest victims or whose life is in danger because of their pregnancy. For the past three years Republican Representative Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley has been leading efforts to accomplish that goal.

“We are trying to follow the will of our constituents, of the taxpayers who sent us down here,” Windschitl said. “We are trying to do what they ask us to do.”

Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, opposed the bill.

“The words that concern me the most are ‘willfull termination of human life,’” Lensing said. “It seems to me that this language also impacts end-of-life decisions that individuals and families may have to make in a hospital, a nursing home or a hospice.”

Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, called the bill “extremist.”

“It does not reflect the views of the majority of Iowans,” she said. “It is part of a right-wing agenda. We all know that and it will put thousands of Iowans at risk.”

Windschitl countered that the alternative Democrats proposed would “open the door” to taxpayer-funding for all abortions for Medicaid patients, not just for cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

“And I think that is unconscionable to a lot of people throughout the state,” Windschitl said.

The abortion issue was one of several hot-button topics in House debate of a bill that outlines spending for a number of state agencies, including the Department of Human Services. Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, was last to speak during today’s debate.

“It’s obvious that people have strong feelings about what’s in this bill and we spent an afternoon and an early evening speaking about the advocacy for different parts of our bill,” Heaton said.

House Republicans rejected other proposals from Democrats, like a call to send two-million dollars in state tax dollars to support the work of private food banks in Iowa. A group of 10 legislators will soon be assembled to try to bridge the differences between the version of the bill House Republicans favor and the one Senate Democrats voted for last week.

Senate Democrats voted down a similar abortion restriction proposed by Senate Republicans. Republicans in the House and Senate also are seeking to forbid taxpayer funding for all services Planned Parenthood may provide to Medicaid patients, including birth control and cancer screenings.