DES MOINES, Iowa, May 18, 2011 ( – Iowa Senate Democrats approved a measure that would make it more difficult, but not impossible, for notorious late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart to set up shop in Iowa. Pro-lifers are concerned that the bill’s passage makes it far less likely that the Senate will consider a statewide ban on late-term abortions already passed by the House that would have kept Carhart out for good.

The Senate passed SF 534 Monday on partisan lines – 26 Democrats in favor, 23 Republicans against.

The bill requires that anyone seeking to establish a freestanding late-term abortion clinic that would carry out abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy be in close proximity to a hospital with an intensive care unit. This would exclude Council Bluffs, where Carhart wants to set up a clinic, but would leave Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport as available sites.

Senate Republicans blasted the bill as political cover for Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), an abortion supporter who has been receiving pressure to allow a vote on HF 657, the original measure.

HF 657 is a statewide ban on late-term abortion past 20 weeks gestation, which some medical research suggests is when an unborn child can feel pain.

A majority of the Iowa Senate (24 Republicans and two Democrats) has signed a discharge petition to get HF 657 considered by the Senate for a floor vote, but Gronstal has continued to run out the legislature’s clock.

Sen. Kent Sorenson (R-Warren) made a motion that the Senate consider HF 657 as a “Committee of the Whole,” but that also failed on a party line vote 23 – 26.

Sen. Nancy Boettger (R-Harlan) condemned SF 534 in debate as the “late-term abortionists’ invitation bill,” according to the Des Moines Register.

“I am sick that this bill actually sets up a pathway for late-term abortionists to set up work here in Iowa,” she said.

For his part, Gronstal said that as much as he dislikes abortion, “I also reel at the thought of telling a woman she has to take to term a baby that cannot survive. That has to be a gut-wrenching decision.”

However, the Wichita-based abortion watchdog group Operation Rescue argued that the Senate bill really is more about keeping Carhart from cutting into the late-term abortion market than it is about preventing Iowa from becoming the late-term abortion capital of the Midwest.

OR’s Senior Policy Analyst Cheryl Sullenger noted that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), has ties both to Iowa City’s Emma Goldman abortion clinic and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Bolkcom’s wife is a former director of the Emma Goldman clinic, and Planned Parenthood is a key campaign contributor. Both are looking to expand their abortion businesses.

However, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) said he doubted the GOP-dominated House would approve the Senate’s measure if it simply streamlines the process for setting up a late-term abortion clinic, according to Radio Iowa.

Radio Iowa also reported that GOP Gov. Terry Branstad expressed fear that if the Senate does not take up HF 657 then Iowa would become an oasis of late-term abortion as more Midwest states act to ban abortion after 20 weeks in their borders.

“It would be a tragedy for Iowa to become the late term abortion capitol of the Midwest and we should, I think, pattern what we do after what they did in Nebraska,” Branstad said. “It was effective there and that’s why I’m hopeful, in the end, the senate will see that.”

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