Editor's Note: With 26 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states.
So far, we've gotten updates on Wisconsin, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!
I didn’t think I was going to get to talk about Todd Akin because I’m not in Missouri yet, but — lo and behold — Iowa Republican Representative Steve King (not that one) defended Akin’s infamous comments and even added some of his own, saying he’d never heard of an instance in which “young victims of statutory rape or incest become pregnant.” He took it back, but has also been known to say some other ridiculous things. King has bragged in the past that Paul Ryan "listens to him"— we'll see if he merits a shout-out in the debate tonight.
In King's home state, the Iowa GOP is hot on the trail of restricting access to abortions, even though currently the only restrictions in place are limited public funding, parental notification, and state-directed counseling.
In June, lawmakers petitioned the state’s Department of Health Services to cut off all Medicaid reimbursements for abortions, including those as a result of rape or incest. Part of the rule-change petitioned for would also require a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound. According to the NBC news affiliate in Des Moines, “all of these measures failed to pass during the 2012 legislative session.”
The problem with this idea, of course, is that such a ruling would conflict with the federal Hyde Amendment and jeopardize the entire $2 billion the state receives in federal funds. DHS Director Charles Palmer refused the request in early August. DHS’s rejection of the petition will hold, at least until readdressed by the legislature. Republican Governor Terry Branstad, for one, does not believe his administration has the authority to make such unilateral decisions.
Still, Governor Branstad and his fellow GOPers say they will pursue legislative action to cut off public funding of abortions including for rape and incest if, but only if, Republicans control the state House after the November elections. Branstad has already indicated he would sign such legislation, which would still cause Iowa to lose federal funding. Currently, Democrats hold 52% of the State Senate, and the State House is 59% Republican.
Even in a non-Republican-dominated legislature, Iowa debated issues such as the feticide bill introduced by Tea Party Republican Kim Pearson. The bill would have made the performance of an abortion a Class A felony (life without parole), an attempted abortion (what?) a Class B felony, as well as would mandate punishments for aiding and abetting abortion-seekers. This outright ban would have, undoubtedly, violated Roe v. Wade. Pearson alienated fellow Republicans with her zeal, and will not be seeking re-election.
Though Pearson will be out of the picture, Iowans, you’ve been forewarned about Branstad and the GOP’s intentions for the coming legislative session.
Thirteen weeks ago, a 32-year-old mentally-disabled Nevada woman wandered away from her group home and became pregnant. She has epilepsy and is on medication, which carries risks for both the pregnancy and the birth. Her parents are her guardians, which under Nevada law entitles them to make her healthcare decisions for her; although they “failed to file an annual report regarding their daughter’s condition and their performance of duties as required by state law.”
A District Judge is holding evidentiary hearings to determine the risks of the pregnancy, and counsel for the woman’s parents—both religious; one Anglican, one Catholic—asked the Nevada Supreme Court to block the hearings, “saying he lacks authority to make such a decision for their mentally impaired daughter.” The Supreme Court denied the request on Tuesday. “The purpose of the evidentiary hearings at this time is merely to obtain information in order to make well-reasoned and informed decisions regarding the ward’s medical care.” Anti-abortion groups believe this case could end in a forced abortion for the woman.
What I want to know is, has anyone asked this woman (who has the mental capacity of a six-year-old and suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome) what she wants? Six year olds are not incapable of rational thought, after all.
It must be recognized that this case wouldn’t even be proceeding in a lot of states right now. Nevada legalized abortion by referendum (and nearly 2/3 support) in 1990; as a referendum, it cannot be changed in any way without a direct people’s vote. And two years ago, both Carson City District Court and the Nevada Supreme Court threw out a petition for a proposed Personhood amendment “finding it to be vague and that it violated the requirement that petitions deal with a single subject.” Neither did a 2012 version make it onto yesterday’s Nevada ballots due to lawsuits and an insufficient number of signatures.
Aside from failed Personhood initiatives, Nevada offers little in the way of outrageous outbursts or overbearing restrictions. Considering: the electoral hindrance to changing the standing abortion statute; a Democratic edge in both the Assembly and Senate (though we’ll see if that holds once official results are posted); and the fact that two-thirds of the population is concentrated in one of the state’s two blue counties, Nevada should remain a desert oasis of reproductive rights.