Iowa speaker-elect predicts debate on abortion issues

2010-11-19T21:37:00Z Iowa speaker-elect predicts debate on abortion issuesRod Boshart The Quad-City Times
November 19, 2010 9:37 pm  • 

JOHNSTON, Iowa — House Speaker-elect Kraig Paulsen said Friday he expects some abortion-related legislation will get debated in the GOP-controlled House next session.

But he steered away from other hot-button issues, such as reinstating the death penalty or requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Speaking during and after the taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press,” Paulsen said some of his members are interested in closing a loophole in state law that allows late-term abortions to terminate a pregnancy if a doctor determines the procedure would “preserve the life or health” of the woman. The issue has gained interest since Nebraska doctor LeRoy Carhart indicated his intention to open a western Iowa clinic in Council Bluffs.

Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said there wasn’t much discussion about abortion-related issues on the campaign trail but Carhart’s announcement since the Nov. 2 election “has really elevated the whole discussion.”

“I’ve had quite a few constituent contacts and quite a few of my members contacting me saying this is something we probably need to look at. I would guess that we probably would address that issue,” he said.

Paulsen, who will be sworn in as the new speaker of the Iowa House when the 84th General Assembly convenes in January, said there’s been nothing specific proposed at this time, but there is concern that Carhart has indicated an interest in practicing in Iowa because the state law is “more lenient.”

“I think there will be a bill and there will be subcommittee meetings on it and it will move forward and we’ll see what happens,” he told reporters. “The bill’s obviously going to get discussion and if, it’s something where the terms are agreed to and the language is agreed to, then it will move forward.”

Paulsen said there also may be interest concerning the future of telemedicine in Iowa as it relates to dispensing RU-486 pills to terminate pregnancies and consideration of an Oklahoma law that would give women the option of having an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion procedure. Any House-passed measure also would have to clear the Iowa Senate, where Democrats hold a 26-24 edge.

On other topics, Paulsen said the fatal shooting this week of two convenience-store clerks has not generated discussions of reinstating a death penalty in Iowa and he doubted state lawmakers would debate reinstating a law repealed in 1976 to require that operators and passengers on motorcycles or motorized bikes wear helmets.

The National Transportation Safety Board officials recently indicated they want such a requirement in all states with the implication that future federal funding could be tied to compliance, but Paulsen called that “a hollow threat” that would not trigger legislative action.

“The Iowa Legislature, in my eight years, has never shown any interest in debating helmet laws and I don’t think anything’s happened to change that right now,” he said.

Mark Maxwell, a lobbyist for ABATE of Iowa, said his group would oppose such a requirement.

“This is the kind of thing that makes the people so irate at the federal government,” he said.

In 1993, state lawmakers voted to approve a two-tiered registration system that would have required motorcyclists to wear helmets or pay an extra $28 fee to receive a different-colored license plate and be allowed to ride without a helmet. Then-Gov. Terry Branstad, who will be sworn in for a fifth term on Jan. 14, vetoed that legislation.

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