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Iowa Republicans Have Introduced a Bill Banning Mifepristone

The new abortion wars are going to focus on medical, as opposed to surgical, abortions, specifically on the availability of mifepristone. In Iowa, abortions are currently available up to 20 weeks, although through no fault of the state legislature. In 2018, the legislators passed a bill banning abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, but the courts blocked the law. So now they are trying again.

Iowa Republican legislators have introduced a bill making it illegal to "manufacture, distribute, prescribe, dispense, sell or transfer" mifepristone or any other generic product that contains the same active ingredient. Under current Iowa law, physicians can prescribe mifepristone but they have to administer the medication themselves. None of this new-fangled telemedicine stuff, thank you. If the bill passes, then in-state physicians won't be allowed to prescribe or administer mifepristone themselves anymore.

What the bill does not do is ban the importation of mifepristone from other states. Iowa is not a country with sovereign borders. Interstate commerce is regulated by Congress, not the states themselves. So even if the bill becomes law, women will still be able to have video consultations with out-of-state physicians and have out-of-state pharmacies ship the pills to them. If Iowa passes a law allowing state officials to search all incoming mail for contraband, the federal courts will certainly strike that down.

So would the proposed bill have any effect if it was passed? Probably some. It is much easier for a frightened and pregnant 16-year-old girl to go to her family doctor for abortion pills than figure out how to contact an out-of-state physician for a video consultation. Also, young girls may not have credit cards or some other way to pay for the pills, whereas buying them locally can be done with cash. This is especially an issue when the girl's parents do not approve of abortion and the girl is trying to get one without her parents finding out. (V)

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