A very bizarre moment occurred during last night’s committee hearing over Iowa House Republicans’ 20-week abortion ban. Republican Representative Shannon Lundgren, during an exchange with Democratic Representative John Forbes, suggested that a woman who suffered a miscarriage would need to carry that fetus to term.
Forbes posed the question to Lundgren in relation to his daughter, who is in her 21st week of pregnancy. He said that while everything is going well with the pregnancy, he worried what would happen if she were to miscarriage, whether this new legislation would force her to continue on with the fetus until her own life becomes in danger.
“[This bill] was written to save babies’ lives,” Lundgren told Forbes. “I understand what you’re saying. This fetus, baby, is not alive, I would concur, in that instance, if your daughter’s life was not in danger, that yes, she would have to carry that baby.”
House Republican staff clarified soon after that Lundgren misspoke, and the bill does have a section that allows for removal of a dead fetus.
— Iowa House GOP (@IAHouseGOP) March 30, 2017
But what is disturbing is both that Lundgren apparently didn’t realize that and that no fellow Republican legislators corrected the error in committee. 11 of 12 Republicans on the committee ended up voting for the bill, so it’s fair to question whether they did so believing what Lundgren seemed to – that women who have a miscarriage in Iowa will have to bring the dead fetus to term, or at least continue to carry it until it endangers the mother’s life.
There’s all kinds of problems with that idea, aside from the incredible cruelty to force a woman who’s had a traumatic experience to continue suffering through it because of some misinterpreted religious zeal. Medically, it’s just downright dangerous, raising the risk of a sepsis infection that can be deadly.
Republican legislators had already scaled back the bill after previously introducing a draconian “fetal heartbeat” amendment, which would have effectively banned most abortions after 6 weeks.
Shannon Lundgren is a freshman legislator from rural Dubuque, who won over the heavily-Catholic district while running on a strongly pro-life platform. She likely made a big ask of House leadership to be the floor manager of this very high-profile bill. Perhaps it should have been given to someone with a little more experience, or someone who had actually studied their own legislation and was better prepared to defend it accurately.
All Lundgren and her fellow Republicans did last night was reaffirm many Iowans’ concerns that this abortion legislation is heartless and punitive to women, as well as medically unsafe. Even with the miscarriage exception that is actually in the bill, it still targets women who often find themselves in difficult situations. Abortions that occur after 20 weeks often involve some sort of serious medical problem with the fetus, or involved women who were raped, were emotionally distressed, and didn’t discover the pregnancy until later in its term.
So while Republicans can pat themselves on the back for potentially stopping some abortions in Iowa if this legislation is signed into law, in reality they’re just targeting vulnerable women, and Lundgren’s verbal slip-up revealed more about Republicans’ real intentions than perhaps they wanted to.
by Pat Rynard