Jul 26, 2022 - Politics

A Des Moines councilperson wants to protect abortion access

Illustration of a line of people waiting at a red cross-shaped door.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Des Moines Councilperson Josh Mandelbaum wants to prohibit city resources from being used to investigate anyone who seeks, gives or facilitates reproductive health services.

  • Under his proposal, city government would also provide travel reimbursement to its employees for reproductive services that aren't offered in Iowa, he told Axios.

Why it matters: Local officials across the country where abortion remains legal are bracing for an influx in demand and some worry they lack the resources to oversee it, Bloomberg reports.

  • A city resolution would send a signal to residents about how DSM will approach some of the evolving issues linked with abortion, Mandelbaum said.

Catch up fast: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to an abortion last month. The move severely limited access to the procedure in multiple states.

  • For now, abortion during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy remains legal in Iowa but Gov. Kim Reynolds has made it clear that she's working to further restrict them.

State of play: DSM council members generally need the mayor or mayor pro-tem's support to add an item to an agenda.

  • Mandelbaum is the mayor pro-tem. That means Mayor Frank Cownie must give the OK for the proposal to be added to an agenda or the full council must vote on whether it can be added to an upcoming meeting.
  • Mandelbaum told Axios that Cownie wants to assess how other counselors feel about the concept before proceeding.

Zoom out: The role of local governments in matters involving reproductive care has taken on increasing significance in the post Roe v. Wade world.

  • Multiple cities in other states have already made statements or taken action to signal that they will not help enforce abortion bans. It's an echo of the "sanctuary cities" that won't aid in federal immigration enforcement, Axios' Orlana Gonzalez reports.

The other side: Dozens of cities have passed ordinances to further restrict abortion, according to Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, an anti-abortion group focused on helping localities outlaw abortion.

  • Willey City Council — which represents a town of around 100 people in western Iowa — unanimously voted in May to ban all abortions within its boundaries.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to show abortions are allowed up to 20 weeks of pregnancy in Iowa (not six).

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