Pro-life advocates react to abortion billboard campaign

David Fetzer
Members of the Knights of Columbus in Iowa City pray outside the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City in this March 2018 photo.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland views abortion as a “basic human right” and has launched a statewide billboard campaign to spread that message to the public. Iowa pro-life advocates say they are appalled by Planned Parenthood’s latest effort to normalize abortion but will remain focused on helping pregnant women choose life.

Iowa’s so-called fetal heartbeat law, one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation, is the impetus for the billboard campaign, according to a news release on Planned Parenthood’s website. The law, which is on hold due to litigation, would prevent an expectant mother from obtaining an abortion after her unborn child’s heartbeat has been detected. The heartbeat can be detected around seven or eight weeks of gestation, but sometimes as early as six weeks.

Planned Parenthood states that its #SayAbortion campaign “is rooted in the fundamental facts that access to safe, legal abortion care is central to reproductive health, and that bodily autonomy is critical to achieving full equality.” Dr. Jill Meadows, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s medical director, states that the agency “envisions a culture where abortion access is understood as a basic human right, an essential part of health care and a normal part of life. For some people, the decision to have an abortion is easy, and for others it is very difficult.”

Billboards have been placed in Des Moines and will be placed in other cities, including Iowa City. Three women who had abortions are featured on the billboards, speaking in defense of their decision. The campaign also has an online, multimedia component.

Rachel Owen, executive director of Obria Medical Clinics of Iowa, which provides Christ-centered, life-affirming health care, says Planned Parenthood’s abortion campaign is not surprising. “They believe that what they do is medicine. They also believe it is acceptable. We have two different world views.”

The staff and volunteers of Obria Medical Clinics, which includes a clinic in Iowa City, will continue to focus on helping expectant mothers choose life over abortion and healthy behavior over risky behavior, Owen said. During the past 10 years, about 2,000 women “were spared from the pain of abortion” through the guidance of Obria Medical Clinics (formerly Informed Choices of Iowa). Furthermore, “We will do our part as believers to bring about redemption. We need to pray for their salvation, Owen said, referring to women who seek abortions and abortion providers.

Linda Rubey, executive director of Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf, said the pro-life organization will continue to “give women the knowledge and the truth that life does begin at conception. And the facts about the heart beat and the development of the embryo into the infant.”

Through the use of ultrasound machines, “women and families who come to our center can continue to see with their own eyes the child that God has created from the moment of conception,” Rubey said.

Basic human rights are not limited to the mother. That care and protection extends to the unborn child “who is not (outwardly) visible to the human eye; this child who is developing.”

Nearly 1,050 expectant mothers considering abortion chose life instead after visiting the Women’s Choice Center since its opening almost 17 years ago, Rubey said. “In God’s eyes, life is life, and we want to protect it and preserve it. Not just the babies, but the families going through an unplanned pregnancy. We want to help to guide them in a way to honor that life and allow that child to grow and to progress.”

“The baby has basic human rights,” said Susan Skoglund, executive director of Pregnancy Resources in the Quad-City area. She noted that Pregnancy Resources is seeing more abortion-minded persons than usual, and many more are choosing life over abortion. Last year, “86.2 percent of our at-risk moms who were pregnant decided to choose life,” she said. That is 380 of the 441 women who took a pregnancy test at Pregnancy Resources’ locations.

Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, said one of his first reactions to the abortion-promoting campaign was “let’s call it what it is.… Let’s call it abortion and be clear about what we are doing and have a debate about it. The place where that happens is in the Iowa Legislature.”

The Supreme Court took that debate off the table last year by ruling that abortion is a fundamental right in the State Constitution, Chapman said. “We are encouraging the Legislature to pass a state constitutional amendment which would declare that the Iowa Constitution does not contain a right to abortion. This would put the question back in the Legislature’s hands.”

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