Opinion | Iowa Republicans are missing what drives abortion rates

Iowa Republicans should aim for enhancing contraception access to minimize abortion.


Ryan Adams for the Daily Iowan

Daughter of House Speaker Pat Grassley, Reagan Grassley, gives the opening prayer before the opening of the 2021 legislative session on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. Legislative goals for the session include further tax cuts, expanding in-person learning, and moving towards economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ryan Adams/The Daily Iowan)

Gabe Conley, Opinions Contributor

Republican lawmakers in Des Moines are trying to amend the Iowa Constitution by removing its protections for Iowans seeking abortion. Constitutional protections have blocked previous anti-abortion laws in Iowa from being enacted in recent years, and Republicans are taking this step now to allow similar bills to be enforced.

Nonetheless, restrictions on women seeking abortions are not particularly effective in decreasing abortion rates. A recent 18-state study demonstrated that the states with the most highly restrictive legislative climates are associated with just a 17 percent reduction in abortion rates.

Besides, if data from Texas is any indication, then we can presume significant restrictions on abortion access in our state will result in a great number of women leaving Iowa to have the procedures done in other states. Republicans need to realize that the best way decrease abortion rates in Iowa is by focusing on reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy.

Abortion is chosen by a woman after she has contemplated several complex and interrelated factors, which differ from person to person. But in the end, abortion always represents a means to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Republican lawmakers don’t seem to understand that abortion is common largely because unintended pregnancy is exceedingly common. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and more than 40 percent of these unplanned pregnancies end in termination. Compare this to the mere 8 percent of planned pregnancies that are aborted, and you will find a tremendous opportunity to save the unborn.

Studies have shown abortion rates are reduced when the most effective contraception is available at low or no cost to women. This is unsurprising, considering nearly all unintended pregnancies are the result of lacking or inconsistent contraception methods.

If reduced abortion rates are going to be the focus of our policymaking, then we should demand that our politicians enact measures to reduce our rate of unintended pregnancy. However, Iowa Republicans have dumbfoundingly done the opposite in recent years.

In 2017, they decreased contraception access for tens of thousands of low-income Iowans by eliminating the Iowa Family Planning Network. This program was then replaced by a state-funded Family Planning Program that went on to be used by just a fraction of the Iowans that the previous program had served.

The Family Planning Program’s database for patients to find providers, which may well have been its most important feature, was plagued with errors. Among its issues were the inclusion of dermatologists, general surgeons, and other providers that didn’t actually offer family planning services. It also redundantly listed the names of providers, some as many as six or seven times.

Anti-abortion lawmakers apparently don’t understand that unintended pregnancy drives abortion rates. Or maybe supercharging their political base with hot-button legislative proposals is more important to them than creating policy that balances reality with ideology.

Expanding access to effective contraception for Iowans would do more to save the unborn than would statewide abortion restrictions. Otherwise, it seems to me that Republicans are more interested in restricting Iowa women than decreasing abortion rates.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.