DES MOINES — It’s been 40 years since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, but Daniel McConchie isn’t giving up hope of overturning that decision.
He takes encouragement from the fact that after four decades of legalized abortion being the law of the land, public opinion on the issue remains relatively unchanged, according to many polls.
The fact the American public remains divided on the issue of legalized abortion “goes to show this is not settled law,” he said.
“If we had significant majority on one side or another, then I think you could say that it was settled,” McConchie, vice president of government affairs for Americans United for Life, said Monday before speaking to the 10th annual anti-abortion rally at the Iowa Capitol.
Gov. Terry Branstad sounded a similar note in his remarks to a few hundred people in the Capitol rotunda.
“It’s sometimes a difficult and challenging journey to think 40 years have gone by and we still have the situation we have today,” Branstad said. “I have seen progress … the advance of medicine and children being able to survive outside the womb younger and younger and more people are getting that.”
The progress has been incremental, he said, such as signing a parental notification law in 1996 and his more recent appointment of his pastor, Monsignor Frank Bognanno, to the Iowa Board of Medicine.
McConchie went so far as to say he sees reason for optimism: The passage of parental notification laws and others that limit the availability of abortions; the election of anti-abortion lawmakers in 2010; and the support of the anti-abortion movement among young people.
“You never give up on an issue of moral concern,” McConchie said.
Earlier in the day, Branstad seemed doubtful supporters will be able to change any laws this year.
“Considering the makeup of the General Assembly, I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” he said.
Given Democrats control of the Senate, nothing will happen, said Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, lead sponsor of House File 173, a bill to end what has become known as tele-med or web-cam abortions in which the physician and the woman seeking an abortion are linked via video teleconference.
The bill would require “medical abortions” — the use of drugs such as mifepristone or ulipristal acetate to terminate a pregnancy — be performed in a hospital or clinic with the capacity to provide surgical intervention in cases resulting in an incomplete abortion or severe bleeding.
Such complications are rare, according to a study by Ibis Reproductive Health of tele-med abortions in Iowa.
Windschitl is concerned about the cases where there are complications. Data is lacking, he said, but he’s seen reports of at least eight deaths — none in Iowa — as a result of tele-med abortions.
McConchie and Windschitl say all they want is a vote on the bill.
“This is a bill that deserves an up-or-down vote,” McConchie said. “I’m not sure what the (Iowa) Senate is afraid of going on record about. Truly, if they think this is either a good bill or a bad bill, they should at least allow a vote on it and let members take a stand and defend why it is.”
That probably won’t happen, according to Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs.
The past two years, he said, Republicans and anti-abortion Democrats tried to limit late-term abortions.
“Now, they want to take away another opportunity for women who seek abortions,” Gronstal said.
He said it’s not likely the bill would win committee approval in the Senate “and if it did, it’s unlikely I would bring it up on the floor,” Gronstal said.