State Senator Julian Garrett doubled down on the most extreme consequences of an abortion bill he voted for last year during a forum in Indianola on Monday night. Answering a question from his Democratic challenger Vicky Brenner, Garrett confirmed he supports a scenario in which a 14-year-old girl who was raped by a family member would have to bring her pregnancy to term.
“According to this law, a 14-year-old student of mine could be raped by her uncle and be required to carry that pregnancy to term,” Brenner, a retired teacher, said to Garrett. “I can see that young woman sitting in my classroom coming in and confiding in me. I ask you, should that 14-year-old girl be required to carry that child to full term?”
Brenner was referring to Senate File 359, the so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill that Garrett voted for and Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law this past May. It would effectively ban all abortions after six weeks. That’s before many women, especially rape victims, might even know they’re pregnant.
“I think we have to take into account, take into consideration, the baby. A human being. And I know, I know a lot of you don’t agree with that,” Garrett said in response to Brenner. “That would be my decision even though you’ve obviously set up the most extreme and difficult example and that’s fine.”
Brenner quickly replied, “Because it happens.”
That scenario is a very real possibility due to the wording of the Republican legislation, which went far further than any other state in the country. Republicans had already passed a 20-week abortion ban law last year, pleasing the Iowa anti-abortion activists at the time. But they insisted on going even further this year, surprising many Statehouse watchers who doubted Republican legislators would actually push through the most extreme measure in the country during a competitive election year.
The 6-week ban polls exceptionally poorly. Only 39% of Iowans said they support the law in a Des Moines Register poll last month. Garrett and Reynolds’ enactment of the new law seemed to actually cause a backlash in Iowans’ overall thoughts on abortion. The poll found that 54% of Iowans now believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 48% believed that in 2008. Only 11% thought abortion should be illegal in all cases, which is what the new law would get very close to achieving.
“The real-life impact of Julian Garrett’s extreme views were exposed at last night’s forum,” Brenner said in a statement to Starting Line. “Because he voted for the most extreme abortion law in the nation, we already knew that Garrett believed that he and other politicians should be making health care decisions for Iowa women. But Garrett took it up a notch when he said ‘That’s my decision’ to require a 14-year-old girl to carry to term even if she was a victim of rape and incest. That’s extreme. Iowa women and girls – not politicians like Julian Garrett – should be making health care decisions about their bodies.”
The law’s future is currently in doubt due to a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood. All it may end up doing is cost the state a lot of money in legal fees to defend. But with the U.S. Supreme Court moving further to the right under Donald Trump’s presidency, state laws that Garrett backed could become all the more important in what options women and girls have in such very difficult situations.
“Senator Garrett’s comments are vile and appalling, and they are indicative of the exact callousness Iowa women have been forced to endure from Republicans in charge over the last two legislative sessions,” commented Erin Davison-Rippey, executive director of Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC. “These politicians are absolutely committed to furthering their short-sighted, unconstitutional, anti-choice agenda to roll back women’s bodily autonomy, no matter the health consequences. It is time that voters take back our power by voting these politicians out of office and instead electing the candidates who are committed to ensuring Iowans have access to reproductive and sexual health care, including safe, legal abortion.”
Brenner and Garrett appear to be locked in a tight battle for Iowa’s Senate District 13, which covers most of Madison and Warren counties. Garrett, who won handily four years ago, has spent a significant amount of money on TV ads to defend his reelection chances.
You can watch the full exchange from the debate here:
by Pat Rynard