Iowa Governor Terry Branstad
Iowa is about to become a one-of-a-kind state – the only state with its own abortion arbiter. From here on out, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will be personally signing off on each and every request for a Medicaid-covered abortion in his state. In Iowa, that means victims of rape. Victims of incest. Women whose lives are endangered by a pregnancy. Women who are carrying a fetus so malformed it won’t survive. The Governor says he plans “to be thoughtful.”
I admit I am curious to know what that “thoughtful” process would look like. About 25 women a year make a claim for a Medicare-covered abortion in Iowa. The cost to the state is about $20,000. Budget dust. This is not about money. This is about punishing bad bad women. Will the governor meet with each woman individually? Will he demand each one tell him her own personal story of how she became pregnant? Will it be one-on-one in his office? Will he have a female staffer present, like a gynecologist does during an exam? I have to say, the idea of a 13-year-old being forced to whisper to the strange man in that photo above the details of her rape by Uncle Bob? Too creepy.
Maybe the interview won’t be held in the governor’s office. Maybe Governor Branstad will devise some formal procedure. He could have group hearings in one of those imposing wood paneled, gilt trimmed courtrooms. The governor would wear a black robe and look down on the women from the judge’s chair. The women would be brought before him, one at a time, for their chance to throw themselves on his mercy. It would be Governor Branstad’s job to “thoughtfully” size them up with probing questions designed to catch those not legitimately raped. The advantage to this plan would be that the governor could give an actual thumbs up or thumbs down, and be cheered or jeered by the audience, like a Roman emperor at a gladiator match.
I suppose the most likely way the governor will make his decision will be with pieces of paper in front of him. Their medical records? I don’t think the governor has the background to be “thoughtful” about their medical histories. Maybe he will request a summary from the doctor? Or maybe it would fall on some political aide to write a history of each case for his boss? Will that aide also make recommendations? Will photos of each woman be included? Can friends and relatives write letters of support? How about the biological father, will he be heard from? Perhaps each woman will have to make a personal written request directly to the governor? Will those letters be public? What about at election time when the governor needs to explain to his base why he approved any abortions at all? And that brings up the biggie: Will the governor deny women abortions just to keep the goodwill of his Conservative political constituents?
Maybe it can be a new reality show: Iowa Incubators. (I’ll work on that title.)
And while we’re thinking about how this new law is going to work, let’s think about Governor Branstad’s public remarks on the subject. He said he will be “thoughtful,” and he hopes he will be able to “reduce the number of abortions” paid for by Medicare. That sounds like he will be making moral judgments on each woman’s story, not an impartial judgement on whether each woman’s medical condition meets the requirements of a covered procedure. If he needs to be “thoughtful” it means Governor Branstad will be sitting in judgement on the character of the women. Thumbs up, or thumbs down.
The moment you start thinking about how a male politician with no gynecological training goes about making life and death medical decisions for indigent women, this new power becomes a nightmare. Someone needs to ask the Iowa legislature, “What in the hell were you thinking?”
Gov. Branstad’s Image from Wikipedia
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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