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Iowa Abortion-Rights Opponents Plan Fight Against Carhart's New Clinic

Iowa Abortion-Rights Opponents Plan Fight Against Carhart's New Clinic

November 12, 2010 — Antiabortion-rights groups in Iowa say they will work to block Nebraska physician LeRoy Carhart from opening a new clinic that will offer abortion services later in pregnancy, the Des Moines Register reports.

Earlier this week, Carhart announced plans to open new abortion clinics in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the suburbs of Washington, D.C., as well as expand services in Indianapolis. The decision was prompted by a recently implemented Nebraska law (LB 1103) prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks' gestation based on supporters' claims that fetuses can feel pain at that stage. Carhart did not disclose the specific location of the Iowa facility and said he is still soliciting donations for its construction.

Carhart, one of the few U.S. providers who perform abortions later in pregnancy, said there is "certainly a need," noting that the locations of the new clinics "are where the laws are favorable for us to do the practice that I need to do." Iowa law allows abortion after the second trimester if a doctor determines the procedure is necessary to "preserve the life or health" of the woman.

Iowa Right to Life Executive Director Jenifer Bowen said, "Obviously, Carhart sees that as a big loophole or he wouldn't be planning to come here." Bowen and other abortion-rights opponents say they will push for tighter restrictions in Iowa, taking advantage of the recent influx of antiabortion-rights lawmakers elected in the state. Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for Life, said abortion-rights opponents "have a real opportunity this session, as opposed to past years."

In last week's elections, Republicans regained control of the state House and former Gov. Terry Branstand (R) -- who opposes abortion rights -- was re-elected to the position. Democrats maintained control of the state Senate (Leys, Des Moines Register, 11/12).