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This week I will deviate from my normal newsletter to address an issue that has been divisive for many years, and that is the issue of abortion. This is an important issue to Iowans, and I recognize the passion on both sides. But the legislature does have to wrestle with this difficult matter at times. I have my own passion for the issue based on the circumstances of our adopted son’s birthmother.
This year a number of bills were written to slightly reduce the number of abortions in Iowa, especially late term abortions. Not one of those bills was even considered at the sub-committee level by the majority party. House File 573, passed out of the House earlier this session, but again Senate Democrats refused to allow discussion on the bill. HF 573 requires an abortion doctor to make an ultrasound picture, and the sound of the baby’s heartbeat, available to the woman who seeks an abortion; she is not required to look at the picture or listen to the heartbeat, but the offer must be made.
Because I believe that these difficult conversations must be held at the Capitol, last week I challenged Senate Democrats to at least schedule a hearing on HF 573. What follows is the text of my remarks.
“We deal with a wide range of legislation here at the Capitol. Sometimes we deal with taxes and appropriations, and those debates usually are focused on how much money the state has, and how we should spend that money. Sometimes we deal with environmental issues and how we should care for the land and water and air. We discuss transportation or labor or education. And we usually debate those issues in the context of one political philosophy or another.
At other times we debate legislation that directly affects people’s lives such as when we discuss matters such as mental health or medicine or corrections. When working on such legislation we are often challenged by the brokenness of our human existence; brokenness such as broken bodies, or tormented minds, or poverty, or chemical addiction, or criminal behavior.
And occasionally we are faced with decisions that are literally about life and death. The matter of abortion is just such an issue. When an abortion is undertaken, a baby dies……every time.
At those times when we are confronted with a life and death matter such as this I believe we are called to rise above the normal political discourse. I believe we are asked to wrestle with what every one of us intellectually knows to be true: That a human life is taken in an abortion procedure. Gone are the days when we can get by with describing the unborn baby as a blob of tissue. Gone are the days when we can say we don’t know when life begins. We know the heart is beating 18 days after conception. Yesterday Senator Johnson reminded us of some of the steps in the baby’s development. I know this all to be true……each of you knows this to be true.
Last week Senator Mathis repeated the Democrat talking point when she said it was her desire that abortions be safe, legal and rare. The goal of your party is to make abortions rare? I have never heard anyone describe traffic fatalities in Iowa as being a rare event. Each year in Iowa we have around 350 traffic deaths…….not a rare event. Each year we have over 5000 abortions in Iowa, nearly 15 abortions for every traffic death …….and we use the word rare in the same sentence as abortion? And to use that word………. rare……. to describe a procedure that has taken 58 million lives since 1973, well, I consider that to be intellectually dishonest. If it is truly your goal to make abortions rare, then supporting HF 573 should be easy.
House File 573 is nothing more than directing a doctor to make an ultrasound available to a woman contemplating an abortion, and giving the mother the opportunity to hear the sound of her baby’s heartbeat. It’s simply that……….allowing the mother to see and to hear the baby that’s growing in her womb.
In many cases the mother is quite young, and may well not fully understand all the ramifications of an abortion procedure. It was interesting for me to hear Senator Dotzler’s comments just a week ago when he was speaking about the bill to restrict the use of tanning booths for children under18 years of age. In that context Senator Dotzler said this in reference to tanning booths, and I quote, “……… something we’re going allow young people who don’t have, at 18 years of age, the knowledge they probably would gain as adults, and having someone else allow them to tan is the wrong way to proceed with something that’s so dangerous to young people.”
So dangerous to young people? Think about the irony of that. We’re concerned about what’s dangerous to young people, and rightfully so, but what are we to say then about a procedure that actually stops a beating heart? And to the Senator’s point about “knowledge they probably would gain as adults”, doesn’t that apply here as well? Shouldn’t the adults that are engaged with this young lady be concerned with providing vital details so this young person is as fully informed as possible?
One of the requirements of HF 573 is that the mother be given the opportunity to listen to the heartbeat of the baby. I ask you today to listen to your own heart. On a matter such as this, a matter literally of life and death, listen to your own heart. Rise above the normal political discourse. There are many voices here in this building. I’m asking you to not listen to all those voices right now. Don’t listen to what your party says. Don’t listen to what your caucus says. Don’t listen to what your leadership says. Listen to what your heart says. Listen to the heartbeat of the unborn baby. And what you do next should be obvious.
I close again with the words of Mother Teresa, “Human rights are not a privilege conferred by the government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”
There is still time for this body to consider HF573, and take a small step to save a beating heart. Let’s get it done.”
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