bleeding heartland

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Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate introduced companion bills this week that would ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks, with some exceptions.

The three Republicans representing Iowa in the lower house – Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) – all co-sponsored the national abortion ban on day the bill was introduced.

US Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst dodged questions about whether they would support their colleague’s bill. And major Iowa news outlets gave them exactly the coverage they wanted.

WHAT THE NEW PROPOSAL WILL DO

Legislation introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Christopher Smith would not bar red states from going further to ban abortion, but would override state laws that currently allow abortions beyond 15 weeks.

Although sponsors have touted its supposed exceptions for rape, incest and mother’s life, these are narrowly drafted and would exclude many victims of sexual assault.

Importantly, the bill contains no exceptions for severe or non-survival fetal abnormalities, which are often detected by an ultrasound that occurs around 19 or 20 weeks. Its exception for abortions “necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman” would not cover many situations where women are at risk of developing life-threatening infections or other complications.

The new legislation would have blocked abortions for the five women interviewed by Bleeding Heartland after Iowa enacted a 20-week abortion ban in 2017. None of them would have been able to give birth to a baby with the less potential for survival.

The proposed stiff criminal penalties for doctors ensure that medical professionals would err on the side of refusing to perform an emergency abortion. Women with non-viable pregnancies are already living this nightmare in Texas, where a strict abortion ban is in effect (see here and here).

GRASSLEY NOT IN A RUSH TO RESPOND

Grassley staff does not allow me to participate in their regular conference calls with certain reporters in Iowa. The Des Moines Register’s editorial of its last September 14 appeal was headlined “Here’s what Sen. Chuck Grassley thinks of a proposed 15-week nationwide abortion ban.” The play led with the best setting possible for the senator.

Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said he thinks decisions on limiting abortion should remain with the states, even though one of his Senate colleagues has proposed banning the procedure nationwide. national after 15 weeks.

Several paragraphs below, journalist Ian Richardson acknowledged that Grassley “did not say directly whether he would support” Graham’s bill.

But he told reporters in Iowa that “it’s a state problem.” […]

“Finally, after 50 years, this issue has been returned to the states so that voters can speak through their elected representatives at the state level, not through unelected judges,” Grassley said Wednesday. . “So it’s a state problem.”

The Cedar Rapids Gazette article by Tom Barton and Caleb McCullogh took the same approach. Here’s the lede from the article that appeared under the title “Iowa Republican Senators Avoid Proposed National Abortion Ban”:

Republican U.S. senators in Iowa balked at backing a proposed nationwide abortion ban when asked about the possibility on Wednesday.

US Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters he preferred to leave the matter to the states.

Erin Murphy and Tom Barton of The Gazette wrote a similar article in July, titled “Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst Pass Federal Abortion Ban.”

Did they really do it?

As Grassley’s Democratic challenger Mike Franken underline, Grassley has been on the record for nearly five decades in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to ban abortion. Why does the Des Moines Register claim to tell readers that a noncommittal statement on a conference call reflects what the senator “thinks” now?

It’s only been a few years since Grassley and Ernst said the Senate should not confirm a nominee for the United States Supreme Court during a presidential election year. Yet both voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett eight days before the 2020 election, when some 65 million Americans had already voted.

Five years ago, Grassley and Ernst said they would oppose bills that threatened health insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions. But when Republican leaders introduced three such bills in the Senate in 2017, Iowa senators voted for each one.

Admittedly, the format of Grassley’s phone calls makes it difficult for reporters to follow up on a question, as the senator’s staff controls access to the microphone.

Either way, no one should report Grassley’s “favorite” without getting a clear answer to a simple question: Would he vote against a nationwide abortion ban if it reached the Senate floor?

ERNST PROVIDES PLATITUDES

For months, Ernst’s staff ignored all inquiries from Bleeding Heartland about abortion regulations. I’ve been around several times after Caroline Kitchener reported for The Washington Post in May that Ernst plans to introduce a six-week nationwide abortion ban in the next Congress,” according to an anti-abortion advocate. abortion aware of the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity discuss internal strategy.

During a September 14 conference call with reporters, Dave Price of WHO-TV asked about the new abortion bill. Ernst only said, “The people of Iowa know I’m proudly pro-life” before moving on to the next topic.

Ernst’s staff did not respond to my follow-up questions, but sent an unanswered response to the Des Moines Register.

Kelsi Daniell, spokeswoman for U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, said in an email Wednesday that “as Iowans know, Senator Ernst is adamantly pro-life and has said the states should be part of these ongoing discussions.”

Andrew Solender reported for Axios in Washington that Ernst told reporters there, “We really should let the states play that initial role.

None of the above means that Ernst would vote against a national abortion ban. Why does the Cedar Rapids Gazette lead readers to believe that it is reluctant to support a bill like Graham’s (or a more restrictive bill) in the next Congress?

I can’t think of a time when Grassley or Ernst voted against a political bill that Republican leaders brought to the floor. Given this record and their longstanding support for banning abortion, the Iowa media should not take their alleged preference for state action at face value, especially that there is credible information that Ernst plans to introduce a federal abortion ban herself.

A clear and official pledge to vote against any nationwide ban would be worthwhile. But Iowa reporters shouldn’t be rewarding senators for sweeping generalities.

Top photos of Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst cropped from official video screenshots. Grassley’s YouTube channel posted video of a Sept. 14 press conference. C-SPAN released Ernst’s comments to reporters on September 13.

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