The following editorial, titled “‘Woman's Right to Know’ is an offer of community help” appeared in the March 23 issue of The Catholic Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.
After a contentious struggle, the Iowa House finally passed a bill last week requiring that certain information be given to women seeking an abortion. The bill, called “Woman's Right to Know Act,” has already been reported out of committee in the Senate and awaits action.
It faces strong opposition. Why? Because proponents of legal abortion on demand continue to interpret any regulation or restriction of abortion as a wedge intended to bring down a “fundamental” right possessed by women.
The bill in the Iowa Legislature is being attacked as unnecessary and unfair. We are told that women who plan an abortion have thought long and hard about it. Many abortions are indeed undergone after serious consideration of all issues. Whether this includes most abortions is debatable. But even if that were the reality, this is not a mere matter of medical procedures. The issue is the termination of life that everyone must acknowledge is human at least potentially. The state ought to treat an approach to such a decision with extra seriousness.
The bill requires “voluntary and informed consent” for an abortion. To insure that a woman is informed, the Department of Public Health would provide material which shows fetal development at several stages, describes adoption and pregnancy assistance services and how to contact helping agencies, describes the medical risks of abortion and the liability of the father for child support. Then a 24-hour waiting period would be required before an abortion could be performed.
For someone who wants to approach an abortion with as little discomfort as possible, this is a great bother. It demands confrontation with realities one might wish to ignore. It can place a great weight on one's conscience. The fact that women alone must too often bear that weight is one tragic aspect of our struggle over abortion. Women do not become pregnant alone, but when they do find themselves pregnant and unprepared for motherhood, far too often the man takes no responsibility — or is the first to propose abortion. Since the law is unable to force equal responsibility here, it is unfair that women are left lone decision-makers in the life or death issue of abortion.
But that is no reason for the state not to help with good and balanced information for women. In fact, it is a reason why there should be emphasis on all the help available to a pregnant woman from both private and public sources. At a time when a woman may feel too much alone, the community has both physical and emotional resources ready for her. She deserves to know.