Iowa House Republicans are attempting to make abortion drugs illegal to “manufacture, distribute, prescribe, dispense, sell or transfer” in the state after the Biden administration announced its efforts to support and protect patients, providers, and pharmacies that want to access such pills. The bill, titled House File 146, will not include penalties for the women who take or obtain the pills but will make it a felony for those who prescribe or dispense them, Iowa Starting Line reported.
At this time abortion is still legal in the state until 20 weeks. The penalty associated with the bill for prescribing or dispensing medicated abortions includes “confinement for no more than 10 years and a fine of at least $1,370 but not more than $13,660.”
Filed Monday, the bill follows an announcement by the federal government that pharmacies would be permitted to dispense so-called abortion pills.
It seems that instead of outright banning abortions, conservative states have taken to limiting access to it in all forms to prevent people from seeking abortions. On average, medication abortion is used in the first 10-11 weeks of pregnancy. It is also most effective then, Iowa Starting Line reported.
By preventing doctors and pharmacies from dispensing the abortion pills, access to both safe abortions and timely ones is limited. Across the country, abortion clinics are facing capacity issues not only because of low staffing issues, but because of an uptick in patients seeking abortions as states nationwide seek to ban them. If the bill is passed in Iowa and the pills become unavailable, individuals in that state may have to travel to get timely abortions despite it still being legal in their state until 20 weeks.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, medicated abortions are considered some of the safest abortions, with complications occurring in less than 0.3% of patients. Additionally, the practice is approved by various major medical organizations both nationally and internationally. They are also the most common form of abortion performed. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, more than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery.
At this time, a reason why prescribing these pills or dispensing them would be considered a felony has not been given.
But of course, this isn’t the first time Iowa House Republicans have tried to pass a bill involving abortion pills. Last year they also tried to pass a bill that would have required Iowa women to receive an abortion pill only in a health care setting. That bill came after the Food and Drug Administration eased restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed women to receive abortion pills through the mail, The Gazette reported.
Both bills have come as a surprise to some because Iowa was one of the first states to participate in telemedicine abortion in 2008. Abortions even decreased in the state due to this until the state decided to withdraw from federal family planning services in 2017.
After that, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law banning abortion after six weeks in 2018— but the legislation was blocked by the courts in 2019 due to Roe v. Wade. Following the court’s decision to overturn Roe, Reynolds asked the courts to reconsider his law, but a District Court judge upheld the injunction; the case has been appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.
It seems this new bill is an attempt at slowly banning abortion in the state as that’s exactly what the governor wants. It is being sponsored by 11 Republican legislators including: Jeff Shipley, Helena Hayes, Steven Bradley, Mark Thompson, Brad, Sherman, Bob Henderson, Anne Osmundson, Mark Cisneros, Charley Thomson, Luana Stoltenberg, and Skyler Wheeler.
Noting how the bills would prevent Iowans from accessing legal abortion, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa issued a statement.
“These bills don’t address any patient needs,” said Jamie Burch Elliott, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa. “It’s very clear that the attempt here is to just chip away at the right to abortion.”
According to NPR, while abortion is illegal or heavily restricted in at least 14 states, an NPR/Ipsos poll found these restrictions are at odds with what the majority of Americans want.
Related Story: White House announces actions to protect medication abortion access on anniversary of Roe v. Wade