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Groups call for the protection and the end of abortion rights at Des Moines events over the weekend

Hundreds of people rallied for abortion rights in Des Moines Sunday, July 10, 2022.
Katarina Sostaric
Thousands of people rallied for abortion rights Sunday in Des Moines.

Thousands of Iowans gathered outside the Iowa Capitol Sunday to protest against attempts to restrict abortion.

Many people in the crowd held signs and wore shirts declaring their support for protecting the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Jean Swenson said her mother told her stories from before the Roe v. Wade decision, when Iowans had to travel to Chicago or New York to get abortions. Or they would try to self-abort a pregnancy, which was extremely risky at the time.

“But we will never go back to those days, because abortion rights are human rights,” Swenson said to applause and cheers from the crowd.

Swenson said people will die if abortion is banned.

Abortion is still legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, but Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican legislative leaders are asking a court to reinstate a law that would ban most abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Sikowis Nobiss, executive director of the Great Plains Action Society, said many Black, indigenous and migrant women have already been living without access to abortion. And she said white Christians shouldn’t be in power.

“There’s never been a separation of church and state in this country,” Nobiss said. “This country was built upon the oppression of the land and the oppression of the body. That’s why we have those posters over there that say, ‘defend land and body sovereignty,’ because they go together.”

Several groups including Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters, the Iowa Abortion Access Fund, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and more were also hosts of the event.

Luana Nelson-Brown of the Iowa Coalition for Collective Change said they don’t all have the exact same opinions and talking appoints about abortion.

“What this horrible action looks like for my community, may look different for your community,” Nelson-Brown said. “But the point is that we all support each other’s agendas, and we all stand in solidarity.”

Group prays for an end to abortion

the leader of an anti-abortion organization speaks to a group of people
Madeleine King
IPR News
Pulse Life Advocates Executive Director Maggie DeWitte asks prayer walk participants to pray for an end to abortion in Iowa.

A couple dozen people gathered outside of a Roman Catholic cathedral downtown Saturday for a prayer walk to end abortion.

Maggie DeWitte, the executive director of Pulse Life Advocates, which hosted the event, said prayers were answered last month when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protected nationwide abortion rights. But abortion is still happening in Iowa.

“We’re here to pray for the end of the abortion in our state,” DeWitte said. “We need to pray for our legislators, we need to pray for our governor, that they will have the strength and the courage to continue forward until we can eliminate abortion in our state.”

The group prayed together before walking to the Statehouse to pray some more.

Melanie Hansman said she came to the prayer walk because “life is too important.”

“Those babies are too precious not to fight for them,” Hansman said. “They can’t fight for themselves. We have to do it for them.

Tom Quiner, president of the board of Pulse Life Advocates, said abortion is “the top burner issue” in his life.

“I’m now a Roman Catholic, and I believe that human life begins at fertilization, as our church teaches,” Quiner said. “Philosophically speaking, I believe that it is always unjust to kill an innocent person. So philosophically, theologically and politically, it’s just an issue that animates me.”

Quiner said he wants the Iowa Legislature to approve language for a constitutional amendment that would say the Iowa Constitution does not protect a right to abortion. If lawmakers approve that language in one of the next two years, it will go on the ballot for voters to decide. And he said he would like to see the ban on abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected take effect.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter