Earlier this week, during a committee hearing for an abortion ban that is being proposed in Iowa, a Republican state representative, Shannon Lundgren, mounted a troubling defense of her hardline stance that a woman should not be able to terminate her pregnancy after 20 weeks. The anti-abortion politician suggested that women who miscarry after 20 weeks of pregnancy should carry their dead fetus to term, video footage of the hearing shows.
According to Newsweek, the state legislature is considering a new 20-week abortion ban after the failure of a "heartbeat bill"—which would have made early-term abortion illegal once a heartbeat is detected. Lundgren is the sponsor of the bill in the House.
"I have a daughter, who is 20 weeks pregnant," Rep. John Forbes, a Democrat, challenged during the Human Resources Committee hearing. "Worst case scenario: She goes to her doctor next Wednesday and her doctor tells her, We don't see a heartbeat anymore with this child. Under this legislation, she would have to carry that [pregnancy] until her life became in danger. Is that good medicine?"
While an early version of the bill stated that doctors who perform an abortion after 20 weeks would be charged with feticide, a felony, it was amended in the committee hearing. The bill now says that a doctor who violates the 20 week ban would face disciplinary action by the Iowa Board of Medicine. The only exception is if the woman's life is in danger or an "abortion is necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child."
While the bill does make room for these circumstances, Lundgren didn't seem to know that. Instead, she implied that a woman's well-being is less valuable than that of a fetus, even when it is not viable.
"This bill wasn't written [with] the intent to protect or govern on the side of the woman. It was written to save babies' lives, giving the choice and being the voice of those babies... that don't have one," she replied. "I understand what you're saying—this fetus, this baby, is not alive. I would concur that in that instance, if your daughter's life is not in danger, that yes, she would have to carry that baby."
This bill wasn't written [with] the intent to protect or govern on the side of the woman.
In a tweet to Progress Iowa, the group that originally posted and publicized Lundgren's comments, the Iowa House GOP said that that Lundgren "misspoke." Neither Lundgren or Forbes returned a request for comment.
The House committee ended up passing the 20-week abortion ban, and now it's headed to the full floor for a vote. To rally support for the legislation, an anti-abortion group called The Family Leader filled a crib with 2,000 baby shoes at the Iowa state capitol and invited people to gather around it. The shoes represent half the number of abortions that take place in the state, Lundgren said in a Facebook post.
Though similar restrictions have been ruled unconstitutional, that has not stopped states with anti-abortion legislatures from passing them. Regardless of the exceptions that the bill allow for, 20-week bans prevent women from making the choices they need to make for their lives and their families. According to Planned Parenthood, 99 percent of abortions take place before 21 weeks, and those that take place afterwards often involve "very complex circumstances—the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available."
"[This] is a terrible bill, and we are still talking about women who have tragic situations, often with wanted pregnancies, being forced to carry a child to term," said Erin Davison-Rippey of Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa.
Update: In an email to Broadly, Rep. Lundgren commented on the video footage that shows her saying that a woman who miscarried would still have to carry the fetus to term. "I answered a question incorrectly and then corrected myself shortly after, which was left out of the video clip being circulated by a partisan, left wing campaign organization. I never advocated that a woman should have to carry a dead fetus to term," she said. "There is nothing in this bill that would prohibit a doctor from removing a dead fetus from a woman who has suffered a miscarriage and I never said that I supported making a woman go to term with that fetus inside of her. That would likely be a health risk to the mother, which the bill provides an exception for in those cases."
The full video of the Human Resources Committee hearing, however, does not appear to show Rep. Lundgren correcting her original statement, in which she said that a woman who miscarries does not have the option to abort. The video shows that Lundgren is asked several times if a woman who miscarries can have an abortion. When she is first asked, she says that a woman should carry a fetus that isn't viable. When she is asked again, she says that the bill permits that a woman can have an abortion if her life is in danger. Upon further questioning—"If there is no heartbeat, don't you think it is in the best interest of the patient to be able to have the option to abort?"—she says, "If the doctor would deem that [a woman's] life is in danger, he most certainly could perform an abortion. I think that could be a reasonable prediction for the physician to make if that baby is not alive."
Rep. Forbes also responded to Broadly with a comment. "As a pharmacist and a father, I asked my question because I wanted to understand how the Republican bill that takes away decisions from a woman and her doctor would be implemented. Too often, politicians pass legislation without understanding the real-world consequences and the impact it has on real lives," he said. "While I didn't expect to get the shocking answer I did from Rep. Lundgren, her explanation exposes the troubling view many Republican lawmakers hold that a woman has no say in an extremely difficult situation. I believe those decisions are best made between a woman and her doctor."