UI, Iowa City groups respond to proposed state abortion legislation

Organizations in the UI and Iowa City area respond to Iowa Legislation that introduces a bill for a total abortion ban.


Grace Smith

Pro-life marchers stand on the sidewalk facing pro-choice attendees during a protest and counter protest between pro-life and pro-choice individuals outside Emma Goldman Clinic for reproductive health care in Iowa City on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Around 70 pro-life marchers attended.

Natalie Miller, News Reporter

Pro and anti-abortion rights groups in Iowa City expressed mixed feelings  after Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill in early February that would make it a felony to manufacture, distribute, prescribe, dispense, sell, or transfer abortion medication.

The bill, which was introduced on Jan. 30, which is sitting in the Health and Human Services Committee, is awaiting assignment to a subcommittee on the bill. The bill will likely not pass the deadline to be voted out of committee by March 3.

The newly-introduced Iowa bill comes after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The U.S. no longer holds abortion access as a fundamental right because of the ruling. Since the overturn, abortion accessibility has hung in the balance for many U.S. states including Iowa.

Abortions in Iowa are currently legal for up to 20 weeks. However, during a “Prayer for Life” rally at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Feb. 6, Rep. Luana Stoltenberg, R- Davenport, announced she plans to introduce a bill for a total abortion ban in the state.

Johnson County Right to Life executive director Sheryl Schwager said a total abortion ban will be helpful in Iowa.

“We’re interested in saving all human lives,” Schwager said. “They come to us, and we offer resources so that we can help them give life to their baby … Any assistance that they might need to help them give life to their baby.”

Lena Branch, University of Iowa Students For Life vice president, said she believes a person’s life starts when they are conceived. Therefore, she said there is no justification for killing a human being.

“We can look at what babies are capable of when they’re in the womb, we know their heart starts beating, their brain begins to form; they can suck their thumb and smile,” Branch said.

Branch also said if the total abortion ban were passed, the state and the UI must accommodate students who are pregnant.

RELATED: Anti-abortion, abortion-rights counter protestors gather at Emma Goldman Clinic for national March for Life rally

“I think it’s going to be really up to the university and the state as well to make sure that there are financial resources that are allocations and accommodations for those that are pregnant,” she said.

Iowa City is also home to a Planned Parenthood of the Heartland center, which typically sees people seeking abortion care and other services. Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, said the organization helps people with issues beyond performing abortions.

“We do offer a wide range of services … People come to us for birth control, gender-affirming care, and cancer screenings, but we are certainly proud to be an abortion provider as well,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell said it is important that Iowa House Republicans have already proposed a total medication abortion ban in the state through House File 146.

“When we’re looking at the ways in which lawmakers are proposing to take away our reproductive freedoms and bodily autonomy, I think it’s also really important to consider that this proposed medication abortion ban is also a near-total abortion ban as well,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell said the bill that has already been proposed and the speculated proposal of a total abortion ban is part of a long-term plan to ban safe and legal abortions, along with the near defunding of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa.

“These trends in Iowa and these efforts to chip away and really eviscerate access to essential health care are really a long and intentional plan that we have seen Republicans chipping away at for years … This is really a part of a big plan to take aways people’s reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and their ability to control their own lives and futures,” she said.