Written by Janice Weiner, roving Iowa City Councilman and candidate for the Iowa Senate District 45
Throw a stone into a pond and the waves move in concentric circles, eventually reaching the distant shores. Imagine that Iowa is that blessing and the abortion ban is the stone. If the Iowa legislature bans abortion or the courts impose the ban for six weeks, according to Gov. Reynolds’ August 11 report, it would have far-reaching consequences.
In the center, where those stones hit the water, it will be every pregnant woman who needs or may need gynecological care in the future, not just an abortion. We already have the lowest number of OB/GYN providers per female in the United States, as well as a handful of counties where OB/GYN care is not available and where birth units have closed. And those women and childbirth who stayed? They will attempt to analyze a law drafted by lawmakers who had no medical training; They will look over their shoulders to a hospital attorney for advice, rather than trusting their medical instincts.
This next ripple? This is the University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine and its residency program, the only accredited training program in the state from an OB/GYN. Both its accreditation and the medical school’s ability to attract high-quality resident applicants will be affected. Abortion training (medical procedures used in many circumstances) is required for certification. If abortion is prohibited and residents cannot pursue training here, they will need to travel out of state – away from their home and family, with all attendant costs, including expensive out-of-state insurance.
The next biggest ripple will affect the University of Iowa itself, which is an economic driver for both this region and the state. In fiscal year 2021, as an R1 research university, UI raised $702.4 million in public and private research funding. The annual economic impact of the university on the state and abroad is in the billions. UIHC also serves as a regional medical center, which is especially important as waves of COVID have hit this state and smaller hospitals have sent their patients here.
It will become difficult to attract quality faculty and staff, not only to the medical school and UIHC, but to the university as a whole. Who would want to bring their families to a place where they, their partner, their children, and their grandchildren might be deprived of the health care they need? And for those who come – unlike the UI that’s been around for decades, where faculty and staff have been hired, planned to stay for a year or two but become community-connected and rooted – may come just these couple of years and move on.
As a country, how much will we lose in revenue? In intellectual and human capital? in reputation? In Federal Grant Funding? How are we going to account for research projects that never got applied, people who never come to teach and influence young people, startups that never happen, growth that could have happened — and young people who leave once they have finished high school or high school?
This vision is hardly miserable. Iowa is already experiencing serious brain drain (the tenth worst percentage difference in the country between the number of college graduates we produce and the number of graduates living in the state). We can’t tell all of those who left or decided not to attend, although there are plenty of anecdotes. But we know that people value their freedoms and their right to medical care.
We underestimate the effects of the abortion ban on our own responsibility. Throw that stone and those waves – they’ll hit beaches we never imagined.