By Lucee Laursen
On May 1, Senate File 359 passed the state Legislature and was sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her approval. The Iowa Republican-led Legislature fast-tracked a bill that would put a ban on most abortions after six weeks. Reynolds has effectively been backed into a corner, facing infuriating thousands of Iowans regardless of her decision. With a strongly contested gubernatorial race in full swing, it seems the Legislature may have forgotten just how divisive the decision will be.
Scenario one: Reynolds signs the six-week abortion ban. Yes, this will please a lot of Reynolds’ voting base. But many Republicans and moderates do support abortion. A Pew Research study found that 27 percent of Iowan adults who believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases are Republican. If Reynolds signs the six-week abortion ban, it could deter them from voting for her.
Scenario two: Reynolds does not sign the six-week abortion ban. Of course, this would please moderates and Democrats, potentially winning Reynolds more bipartisan support. But this decision could easily infuriate a lot of Iowa Republicans. The same Pew Research study found that more than 50 percent of Iowa Republicans believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. It is unclear whether this would deter Republicans from voting for Reynolds, but it certainly would jeopardize her relationship with thousands of voters.
Either way, Reynolds is forced to make a decision that will disenchant some of her potential voters.
The reality is, she will most likely sign the six-week abortion ban. She has always been strongly “pro-life.” But even if she signs the bill, there will be pushback from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union. This will most likely turn into a long, drawn-out legal battle that will suspend the law from taking effect for even longer.
The Legislature is truly bamboozling Reynolds by forcing her to make this decision while only months away from facing a competitive election. Even if Reynolds signed the ban today, it most likely would not go into effect until after the upcoming gubernatorial race. Which raises the question, why now? Why would a Republican-led Legislature burden the current Republican governor with this decision as she is facing a highly contested election?
Legislators do have to appeal to their constituents in order to be re-elected. But for many legislators, their re-election is smooth sailing.
Ultimately, Reynolds is stuck in a dichotomy that will inevitably result in a loss of support. It’s like forcing someone to decide if they like Star Trek or Star Wars better right before walking into a comic-convention. Either way, the decision will be isolating, and the person is bound to make instant enemies.
Abortion continues to be an issue that drives hostility in the United States. Forcing Reynolds to make a decision on such a polarizing issue this close to the gubernatorial race makes no strategic sense. I encourage everyone to call Reynolds and urge her not to sign SF 359.