Weekend open thread: Abortion and pregnancy edition

This week Governor Terry Branstad declared April to be “Abortion Recovery Month” in Iowa. Anti-choice organizations and crisis pregnancy centers were invited to the proclamation signing, and women who regret their abortions spoke at a press conference. Human beings have complex reactions to significant life events, and I feel empathy for anyone who feels sad about important choices. However, it is inaccurate to suggest that all women who exercise their legal right to an abortion need to go through a “recovery” process. The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion concluded in a 2008 report that “among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy. […] the TFMHA reviewed no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.” Some mental health professionals believe that “emotional issues, especially feelings of guilt, begin to rise along with anti-choice efforts to restrict abortion.”

The Iowa House approved a 20-week abortion ban at the end of March. The bill is modeled on a Nebraska statute and is intended to deter an Omaha-based doctor from opening a new abortion clinic in Council Bluffs. It has stalled in the Senate Government Oversight Committee. Committee Chairman Tom Courtney said in mid-April that it was too late in the legislative session to adequately review the bill this year, and he would prefer to take it up in 2012. Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan, a Democrat, recently urged the Senate to act on the bill before adjourning. The mayor does not want his city to become “home to a clinic that specializes in later term abortions.” Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who represents the Council Bluffs area, has said he would not block the abortion bill from coming to a vote and is letting the normal committee process work.

Women who are pregnant and planning to stay pregnant should be aware that April is cesarean awareness month. At the request of Iowa chapters of the International Cesarean Awareness Network, Branstad issued a proclamation to that effect. The c-section rate in Iowa rose to 30.2 percent in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is way above the optimal level, but the national average is even higher at 32.9 percent. The central Iowa chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network posted statistics for c-sections and vaginal births after cesareans (VBACs) in Iowa hospitals here. Unfortunately, more than three quarters of Iowa hospitals prohibit pregnant women from even attempting VBACs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 initiative set a goal of reducing the cesarean birth rate for low-risk women to 15 percent for women giving birth for the first time and 72 percent for women who have had a prior cesarean birth. Having a doula present during labor has been proven to reduce the need for cesareans and other major interventions.

Whether or not they are able to become pregnant, all sexually active people should be aware that April is STD Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control has lots of relevant facts and figures here. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland clinics across Iowa are encouraging people to get themselves tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: State Representative Kurt Swaim is not running for re-election in the new House district 82, which covers Davis and Van Buren counties and most of Jefferson County, including Fairfield. Swaim and fellow Democrat Curt Hanson were both placed in that district, but most of the population lives on Hanson’s current turf. Swaim was one of four House Democrats to vote for the 20-week abortion ban, one of three House Democrats to vote for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and one of nine House Democrats to vote for a bill banning secret recordings on Iowa farms. Hanson voted against all of those bills.

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