This afternoon, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the Emma Goldman Clinic of Iowa City, submitted a lawsuit challenging the new Iowa law that bans most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected (approximately 6 weeks of pregnancy). This abortion law is the strictest in the country, and bans abortions before most women even know they are pregnant. During the legislative session, the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA) remained stridently opposed to the bill. IowaCASA’s Associate Director Kerri True-Funk submitted a notarized affidavit to this afternoon’s lawsuit challenging the abortion ban, stating that it will have a “devastating” impact on survivors of sexual violence and intimate partner violence.
While the abortion ban includes exceptions for rape and incest, Ms. True-Funk points out that these are only available for those who report to law enforcement or to a healthcare facility. Yet rape is one of the least reported crimes in the country. She states in her affidavit that there are numerous barriers to reporting sexual violence—none of which are addressed in the law. A survivor would essentially be forced to report what happened to them if they wished to seek an abortion, regardless of whether they actually wanted to.
The following is a statement from Kerri True-Funk regarding the abortion ban and her submitted affidavit:
We believe this egregious law severely limits and undermines a survivor’s ability to make critical decisions about their health and their body during an already traumatizing time. A woman’s decision whether to get an abortion is largely dependent on her life circumstances. She should not be forced into disclosing what happened to her in order to gain access to an abortion. Our opposition to this law is not about being “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” This is about supporting someone who has experienced sexual violence in making a choice that is right for them.
It is unfair and arrogant for legislators to assume they know what is in the best interest of victims. We must do better to ensure that all survivors’ voices are heard throughout this conversation—even those we may not necessarily agree with. It’s presumptuous for us to try to make these difficult decisions for them.
In her affidavit, Ms. True-Funk points that that “a significant percentage of women seeking an abortion are suffering and/or at risk for abuse.” In one large-scale study of women seeking an abortion in Iowa, 13.8 percent reported having been subjected to physical or sexual abuse over the past year and 10.8 percent reported physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner over the past year.