There were 4,058 abortions performed in Iowa in 2020, a trend that’s increased over the last three years.
In 2018, there were 2,849 abortions, followed by 3,566 abortions in 2019, according to state data.
The data came from the Iowa Department of Public Health and was released to legislative staff. State Sen. Janet Petersen shared it with the Des Moines Register.
Before 2018, abortions in Iowa were decreasing.
The increase follows the change in the state’s family planning services. In 2017, Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative Republicans had Iowa withdraw from a federally funded family planning service to a state-run version called the Family Planning Program. The move was intended to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving funding for their family planning services.
The Des Moines Register last week explored reasons given by proponents and opponents of abortion. State Senator Janet Peterson of Des Moines blamed the curtailing of family planning services:
State Sen. Janet Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat, said in an interview that she wasn’t surprised to see the abortion rate rise for a second year.
“I once again think that when they take family planning services away from Iowans and expect abortion numbers to drop, they’re just kidding themselves,” said Petersen, who forwarded the information to the Des Moines Register. The information was included in an email from an Iowa Department of Health legislative liaison, titled “Induced Termination Raw Data.”
Opponents blamed a Iowa Supreme Court decision:
Maggie DeWitte, executive director of the group Iowans for Life, disputed the theory that abortion numbers are rising because Planned Parenthood was kicked out of the public family planning program. DeWitte said birth control is still widely available across the state.
“Access is not an issue,” she said.
Instead, DeWitte blamed the rise in abortions on a 2018 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court, which declared for the first time that the Iowa Constitution protects abortions as a fundamental right.
“When you create a fundamental right, that means you can’t regulate abortions in any way,” she said. “Our hands are tied.”
It continues to amaze me that time after time Family Planning Counseling has proven to dramatically lower abortions. This is what the so-called “Right to Life” group wants. The best way to stop abortions is to stop unplanned pregnancies. That is what is called contraception.
The best way to make contraception work is to make it available to women on a low cost, long term basis with professional medical counseling. We see what has happened here in Iowa. We are only reproducing results that have taken place in all sorts of previous iterations.
In 2009, a privately backed initiative in Colorado that had drastically lowered unwanted pregnancies came to an end.
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI) offered low-income women and teenagers access to low or no-cost contraceptive devices, including IUDs and implants, and trained providers in insertion and counselling techniques. Last year, researchers reported significant drops in the birth rate among teens and young adult women in participating counties. The abortion rate among women between 15 and 19 years old dropped by more than a third; high-risk pregnancies by a fourth.
In July the governor’s office issued a glowing press release, crediting the program with a 40% statewide drop in teen birth rates between 2009 and 2013 – and a 35% drop in abortions.
But, despite the program’s widely reported successes, last Wednesday Colorado’s Republican-controlled senate killed a bill that would sustain and expand CFPI services.
“Unfortunately, family planning is a political issue and science and data gets trumped by ideology,” Greta Klingler, who works for the Colorado department of public health and environment, and who authored the CFPI report, told the Guardian.
“It’s a missed opportunity for the people of Colorado, many of whom still don’t have access to the best most effective methods and services out there,” she said. The program has also been “shown to save the state an enormous amount of money, so there’s the economic piece of this too”.
So – no surprise. We can slow abortions dramatically with medical counseling and access to contraception. This is the cheapest alternative in terms of money and consequences. Or we can force women to have to make a choice of abortion. Or they can have the child. This will most likely lead to a life of poverty. Certainly the child will not get the breaks that a child of means will get.
And down the line is the prospect of the Iowa Legislature in league with a far right wing Supreme Court ending access to legal and safe abortions. We all know that we won’t stop unwanted pregnancies. We all know that banning abortions will only drive the poor to back alley abortions and all the horrible consequences of that situation.
And we all know that the well of unwanted pregnancy will have access to a medically safe abortion some place, just as it did in the 1950s.
Once again it looks like Iowa will pick what is by far the worst and most expensive and most societally disruptive choice.