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Erin Davison-Rippey of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, at left, Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood’s political action committee, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell, and Jill June, former leader of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, participate in a roundtable discussion of women’s health-care issues Wednesday in Des Moines.

DES MOINES — Electing Democrat Fred Hubbell to be Iowa’s next governor in November could be “a game changer” for women seeking to push back against GOP-led efforts to limit their reproductive freedom and options, a top Planned Parenthood leader told a roundtable group Tuesday.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood’s political action committee, said Iowa is a “bellwether” state that swung to President Trump and a Republican takeover of the Iowa Statehouse in 2016, but there are signs of “the resistance” now being “on the rise” to elect new leaders.

“The action is in Iowa and I think this is where people see the fight and it’s getting increasingly on the radar,” said Laguens, who joined Hubbell and about two dozen Iowans to discuss health-care concerns at a downtown Planned Parenthood office.

“You have the whole Trump piece but now you see the resistance if you will and a change in direction I think because people see that this has not been changing people’s economic fortunes for good. They’ve been actually losing ground,” she said. “People realize that what they thought they might be getting, they’re absolutely getting the opposite.”

During the health-care roundtable discussion, several participants expressed concern over a significant decline in services provided through a government-funded family planning program for low-income and underinsured Iowans that has occurred since Iowa’s GOP-run Legislature established a state plan that excludes abortion providers. The change that started in July 2017 blocked Planned Parenthood, UnityPoint Health and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics from participating.

Jodi Tomlonovic, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa, said the change “decimated our safety net system, which could result in more unintended pregnancies, worse birth outcomes and more abortions.

“We need to make sure that every Iowan has access to quality, affordable health care and if you look at what’s gone on in our state the last couple of years, it’s going in exactly the opposite direction,” Hubbell told the gathering.

Hubbell said health care is going to be a major issue in the general election because of the Reynolds’ administrations mishandling of the Medicaid system that was switched from a state-run operation to one under the control of three private managed care organizations and GOP passage of the most “extreme anti-women’s health care law” that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Iowa City's Emma Goldman Clinic have filed a lawsuit against the state of Iowa challenging the so-called “heartbeat” law signed by Reynolds, which has been stayed from taking effect while the litigation makes its way through the court system.

Republicans and social conservatives are hoping the ensuing legal battle on the heartbeat law will be a vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed the right to abortion. Pro-life groups also want legislators to consider a “personhood” bill that would set a legal standard that life begins at conception.

“I think, if you look at some of the statements that our governor has made publicly, she wants to make further changes to reduce access to women’s health care,” Hubbell said in an interview Tuesday, “and I happen to think and I think most Iowans think that that’s not the right direction.”

During last Friday’s Family Leader summit, Reynolds praised religious conservatives for being “with us spiritually and physically” to ensure passage of the heartbeat legislation, calling it “a proud moment for my first year as governor.”

“I signed this bill because I believe all innocent life is precious and sacred and as governor I pledge to do everything in my power to protect the unborn,” she told the summit participants.

“For me, my faith leads me to protect every Iowan no matter how small and I’m proud to be the governor of the most pro-life state in the country,” Reynolds added.

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