Lawmakers Consider A Bill That Allows Women To Sue For Emotional Distress Caused By Abortion

Jan 17, 2017

A bill passed out of subcommittee late this afternoon allows a woman to sue her physician for the emotional distress that results from an abortion. Currently a only handful of states, including Nebraska and Wisconsin, have similar laws. 

"When someone is going through a very hard time in life, you shouldn't be looking at them as a way to make money off of them," says the bill's author, GOP State Sen. State Senator Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa. "And if that's what you're looking at exclusively, and you're not paying attention to doing the good job of being a physician, then we need to make sure as a state that we're protecting that individual." 

Opponents of Chelgren's bill say the legislation is unnecessary and harmful.

"This bill just gives extremists organizations, whose sole mission is to sue abortion providers, one more vehicle to go after doctors, to tie up the court system, and to frankly line their own pockets with legal fees," says Erin Davison-Rippey, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. "This bill perpetuates the false idea that women predominately have negative emotions following an abortion." 

Currently, the legislation includes no statute of limitations. But Chelgren says he would be open to limiting the time frame a woman may file suit to up to six years, after first realizing she's suffered emotional harm caused by terminating her pregnancy. 

The bill now moves on for the consideration of the entire Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee, but it is not the only abortion legislation being considered by lawmakers.

Last week another bill was introduced that would defund Iowa Planned Parenthoods in an effort to limit abortion access. But in doing so, Iowa would lose more than $3 million in federal funding for family planning.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds says she supports diverting money currently aimed at at-risk youth to fund a new state program to help provide family planning services. But she adds that the administration’s focus on quality education prevents at-risk kids from entering the justice and child welfare systems.

"It’s about connecting them with opportunities in the state of Iowa. It’s about working with educators to make sure that they have the tools to provide these students with a phenomenal education. It’s all of it. And it’s about providing a safety net along the way," says Reynolds. "And there’s different ways that we can do that, that I believe and that we believe will provide even better results.”

None of Iowa’s family planning money currently funds abortions.