The Iowa Senate engaged in a passionate debate last night over the 20-week abortion ban and 72-hour waiting period legislation. Republicans sent the bill to the governor’s desk after a 30-20 party-line vote, but not before a few senators made some interesting comments during debate.
Senator Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa expressed his dismay that the bill didn’t go further, and then made a curious comparison when defending the 72-hour waiting period provision, which he called the “time share” clause.
When the bill is signed into law, Iowa will become the sixth state in the nation to impose the three-day waiting time for a woman who decides she wants an abortion. Democrats decried it as insulting to women’s intelligence and a needless burden on women already facing a difficult decision.
Chelgren countered by reading a moving letter from one of his constituents who said she regretted her abortion, claiming employees at Planned Parenthood convinced her to go through with it. Now she claims she can no longer have any children.
“You want to know why we wait 72 hours?” Chelgren stated. “For women like this.”
But then he made a peculiar comparison.
“It’s the time share clause,” Chelgren explained. “No one would buy a time share if they were able to go home and talk to their friends, talk to their neighbors, pray about it, sleep on it and talk to people they trusted.”
Suggesting that women confronting a decision as personal as having an abortion is similar to mulling over whether to purchase a time share didn’t seem to fit the seriousness of the Senate debate. And the idea that trained medical professionals are pitching women on abortion in the same way sleazy salesmen pitch time shares demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the process.
At the very least, one could certainly come up with a number of comparisons more appropriate in this situation than time shares.
But why is this particularly notable in Chelgren’s case?
Because in 2014 Chelgren was able to fend off a tough challenge in his reelection from Steve Siegel by casting Siegel as flippant on abortion. Chelgren had sent out a survey mailer in 2010 asking voters their stances on various issues; Siegel replied with sarcastic responses on what he felt was biased questions, including a reply of “Kill them all and let God sort them out” on a question about abortion. Chelgren relentlessly attacked Siegel in the closing weeks for it and prevailed with a narrow victory.
You’d think that the Ottumwa senator might then want to be a little more careful in what words he uses in the abortion debate. His pro-life constituents probably won’t care since their bill got passed, but – as in other cases with Chelgren – they ought to be concerned about the effectiveness of their messenger. This is yet another time this year where Chelgren has needlessly distracted from an important issue – in the case where he had a rather compelling personal story from a constituent.
by Pat Rynard