Reynolds defends temporary ban on surgical abortions

By: - March 29, 2020 4:23 pm

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference on March 29, 2020, about the coronavirus COVID-19 and the state’s response from the State Emergency Operation Center in Johnston, Iowa. (Photo by Kelsey Kremer/Pool, Des Moines Register)

Gov. Kim Reynolds on Sunday defended her decision to include surgical abortions in her order to suspend “non-essential” and elective medical and dental procedures, saying the action was not based on her personal ideology.

Also Sunday, the Iowa Department of Public Health said it expects to see the first peak in cases in two to three weeks. And Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst talked about what they would like to see if Congress approves a fourth COVID-19 response package.

Reynolds on Sunday addressed for the first time her office’s interpretation that surgical abortions were part of the emergency order issued March 26 to suspend certain medical and dental procedures.

She said the decision was based on the need to preserve personal protective equipment, such as face masks and shields, that have been in short supply. The order also reserves ventilators and anesthesia machines that can be converted to ventilators, she said.

“The decisions that I have made have been made in the vein of really helping us strategically use our PPE stockpile that we have, that has been an issue from the very beginning of this,” she said.

She said she has closed businesses, such as bars and dine-in restaurants, recommended school closures and suspended other activities based on the potential threat of COVID-19 spread or to protect the health care system.

“Everyone is making sacrifices, everyone,” she said, adding, “these all have a limited time frame.”

The order delays medical procedures until April 15.

She left the door open for people to make the case to the Iowa Board of Medicine that their procedure is urgent, be it an abortion or a kidney stone.

First peak still weeks away

Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said the department expects a “first peak” in COVID-19 cases in Iowa in two to three weeks.

That would be the weeks of April 12 or 19. Those dates are five to six weeks after Iowa saw its first positive COVID-19 test on March 8.

Reynolds said new cases are expected to continue to increase as testing expands and as Iowans return home after potential exposure to COVID-19 while out of state during spring break.

Priorities for more federal action

Ernst, who joined the news conference via video conference, discussed some of the highlights of the CARES act, the $2 trillion coronavirus package that President Trump signed into law Friday.  She said she expects discussion about a fourth package.

“We’re not sure yet if that will be needed. If it is, certainly we will be acting on that,” Ernst said.

She said she would like to see a continued focus on aid to small businesses and unemployed workers. She said she’d also like to see Congress address health-care needs such as vaccinations and planning for future pandemics, so “God forbid, if this ever happens again, just making sure that we’re capturing all of that data.”

Ernst said she expects discussion about requests for more aid for state and local governments. “That, to me, is something we will debate, we will see as long as it’s COVID-19 related,” she said.

Reynolds said she plans to meet this week with her financial team to see how the third coronavirus package will affect Iowa  given its unemployment figures and COVID-19’s effect on state revenues. But she seconded Ernst on wanting to support the health-care system and plan for future pandemics. “They are stepping up through all of this,” she said.

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