Planned Parenthood PAC rates Iowa lawmakers, praises Petersen and Wessel-Kroeschell

Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa published its scorecard of Iowa legislators and gave its "Champion Award" to two Iowa House Democrats: State Representatives Janet Petersen and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell.

Details from the 2011 legislative update are after the jump. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President and CEO Jill June described this year as "the worst legislative session for women in my 25 years at Planned Parenthood."

Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa included three Iowa House votes on their 2011 legislative scorecard: House File 657 (the ban on most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy); House amendment 1564 to House File 649 (amending the health and human services budget bill to remove cuts to Iowa Family Planning Network eligibility); and Senate File 534 (the "certificate of need" bill passed by the Iowa Senate as an alternative to the 20-week abortion ban, which House Republicans amended to include 20-week ban language). The Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa position was against House File 657 and the amended Senate File 534 and for amendment 1564 to House File 649.

Fifty-seven of the 60 Iowa House Republicans voted against the Planned Parenthood position on all three measures, or on all measures for which they were present to vote. Republicans Glen Massie and Kim Pearson voted for the Planned Parenthood position on House File 657, but only because they did not believe a 20-week ban went far enough in outlawing abortions in Iowa. For the same reason, Republican Tom Shaw voted for the Planned Parenthood position on both House File 657 and the amended Senate File 534.

Of the 40 Iowa House Democrats, 36 voted for the Planned Parenthood position on all three scorecard measures, or on all for which they were present to vote. All of the House Democrats supported restoring the family planning funding to the health and human services budget. State Representatives Kurt Swaim, Roger Thomas and Brian Quirk voted for House File 657. Dan Muhlbauer voted for the abortion bans in House File 657 and the amended Senate File 534.

One noteworthy abortion-related vote was not included on this scorecard: the procedural motion on whether to bring a "personhood" bill to the Iowa House floor. That vote was scrambled because although no House Republicans argued against the substance of the "personhood" bill, leadership and more than half the GOP caucus disagreed with bringing it to the floor on tactical grounds. Click here for details on that vote; 24 House Republicans and Democrat Muhlbauer supported bringing up the personhood legislation.

Planned Parenthood's Iowa Senate scorecard included just one vote from the 2011 session: amendment 3293 to House File 649, the health and human services budget. That amendment (passed in May) removed cuts to Iowa Family Planning Network eligibility and restored abortion access. It passed on a straight party-line vote, backed by all 26 Iowa Senate Democrats and opposed by the 22 Senate Republicans present. Senate File 534, the "certificate of need" bill designed to prevent a late-term abortion clinic from opening in Iowa without restricting reproductive rights, also passed the Senate on a party-line vote, but Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa didn't include that on the scorecard.

The 20-week abortion bans never came to Iowa Senate floor votes this year.

In giving the "Champion Award" to Wessel-Kroeschell and Petersen, Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa recognized their work against House File 657, the bill that would have banned almost all abortions in Iowa after the 20th week of pregnancy. From a legislative update mailed to Planned Parenthood supporters last week:

Throughout the 2011 Iowa Legislative session, Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell was consistently a strong voice for Iowa's women and families, working diligently to help stop attacks on women's health care.

Rep. Wessel-Kroeschell served on the initial subcommittees of HF657, the 20-week abortion ban, and raised serious questions about how the bill could endanger Iowa women.

Wessel-Kroeschell is the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Human Resources Committee, to which House File 657 was first assigned. Republican dissidents Pearson and Massie prevented the 20-week abortion ban from passing that committee because they want to outlaw all abortion. Fewer than 1 percent of abortions in Iowa are performed after the 20th week of pregnancy.

House Republicans then assigned House File 657 to the Government Resources Committee, where Janet Petersen is the ranking Democrat. Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa praised her for taking "the lead against this bill":

She challenged anti-choice lawmakers to produce scientific evidence for their findings, and also pointed out medically inaccurate provisions in the bill.

As an advocate for making Iowa "the safest place in the U.S. to have a baby," Rep. Petersen brought to light the many unintended consequences of the proposed 20-week ban, and how any woman who becomes pregnant could be endangered by this legislation.

Here is Petersen's closing statement during the House floor debate on HF 657:

Here are Wessel-Kroeschell's opening remarks during that floor debate, as provided by Iowa House Democratic staff:

Mr. Speaker....

Make no doubt about it, HF 657 puts our daughter's lives and health at risk. This bill is an extreme measure which is being sold to us as a way to keep a Nebraska physician out of Iowa. If keeping this dr. out of Iowa is necessary, there are ways to do that without risking the lives of our daughters. Using this bill for that means is equivalent to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

Women terminate pregnancies for many reasons. Although we may disagree with them on why, most Iowans agree that those decisions should be left up to a woman, her family, doctor, and faith advisors.

It puts our daughters at risk when a much wanted pregnancy goes wrong. We will illustrate this for Iowan's during today's debate.

A Nebraska woman, Danielle Deaver was excited about her pregnancy and planning for her second child. She had experienced numerous miscarriages but felt confident about her current pregnancy because she is the mother of a healthy 2 year old.  Through no fault of her own, tragedy happened: her water broke at 22 weeks. Desperate to continue the pregnancy her dr. put her on 24 hour bedrest hoping her body would replenish the amniotic fluid that protects babies and allows them to thrive in their mother's uterus. Common practice in obstetrics has been that once a pregnant woman's water breaks, she will deliver the baby within 24 hours to avoid life threatening infections.

Prayers, medicine and her sheer will did not replace Danielle's amniotic fluid. As a mother, I can't imagine how awful it must feel to realize that you can no longer protect your much anticipated pregnancy. Danielle had lost the ability to protect her unborn child and her uterus was instead crushing and suffocating the baby. Now her fetus is in distress.

Knowing that there was no hope that her pregnancy could continue to viability and knowing the baby would not survive, Danielle and her husband Robb asked to have labor induced to prevent infection and preserve their fertility. As the happy parents of a 2 year old, they wanted another chance; they knew that Danielle was at risk of infection which could not only risk her ability to have another pregnancy but could also kill her.

Based on the Nebraska 20 week ban (a bill that is very similar to HF 657) which went into effect one month earlier, three attorneys advised the Deaver medical team that they would risk losing their license, going to prison and various lawsuits if they induced Danielle's labor. Their hands were tied and they could not use best medical practices.

Dannielle Deaver went home and waited for a life threatening infection in either her or her baby. Her life was in danger. She went home and waited for her life to be put at "immediate danger." Finally, 8 days later, she went into labor and watched her baby die.

I feel strongly, that a family who is in this situation should not have their decisions made by politicians. It should be the family's decision.

I may not always agree with all the decisions that Iowans make for their family, but I respect that they have the right to make them. I respect that every family is different. I respect that every pregnancy is unique. I oppose this bill not only because it does not allow for an exception for rape and incest, or real exception for the health and life of a woman, but I oppose this bill because it is extreme.

HF 657 takes away a couple's decision making powers regarding the first days and months of parenting and put it in the hands of the government. We can all feel for this couple, struggling to make the decision that is best for their circumstances. And because each situation is different, we must protect a family's ability to make decisions in consultation with those they trust.

Families are allowed to make many health care and life and death decisions for children. Does this bill indicate that government will move toward making these decisions for parents?  

Danielle and Robb Deaver deserved to make the decision for the child they had hoped for and loved even if it were not the decision you or I may have made.

Many pro-choice Democrats spoke against House File 657 during the floor debate as well.

Wessel-Kroeschell will run for a sixth term in the Iowa House in 2012. The new map of political boundaries put her in district 45, covering part of Ames, much like the district she has represented since 2004. Petersen has represented House district 64 for the past decade and will run for the new Iowa Senate district 18 in 2012. That district covers much of northwest Des Moines, Petersen's current territory, and stretches to include part of the east side as well. Democrats have significant registration advantages in both the new House district 45 and the new Senate district 18.

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