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City Council member looks to protect reproductive rights in Des Moines

Josh Mandelbaum said he is looking at what the city can do from a policy perspective, and then working towards taking next steps.

DES MOINES, Iowa — After the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, Des Moines City Council member Josh Mandelbaum said he wants to take the steps as a city to provide assurance to Des Moines residents when it comes to reproductive health care.

"We don't have the ability to set state and federal law," Mandelbaum said. "We have the ability to put city policies in place, and those are the things that we should do."

Mandelbaum said he is looking at what the city can do from a policy perspective, and then working towards taking next steps.

"The types of benefits we provide as an employer, looking at what we can do to limit city resources being used to investigate folks seeking health care, and then we have described nondiscrimination ordinances," Mandelbaum said. 

Sally Frank, a legal professor specializing in women's rights at Drake University, said she hopes the city passes these plans once they go before the city. 

"It's an interesting way of trying to protect the women of Des Moines from the probable overreach and the probable law that is coming that will restrict our reproductive rights," Frank said.

Mandelbaum has yet to formally present his ideas to the council, but when asked about his ideas, councilmember Indira Sheumaker provided a statement sharing her support of the efforts. 

"We need to do our best to protect human rights," Sheumaker said in her statement. 

Other councilmembers aren't as enthused about the proposal. 

"I support women's rights, but this is not a city council issue," Councilmember Lynda Westergaard said in a statement. 

Frank said she disagreed with this sentiment, as she believes taking these steps is part of being proactive. 

"This is saying, 'we're not going to spend any city funds investigating any of this, tracking any of it in any way, shape or form,'" Frank said. "And that is proactive and necessary if councilmembers want to protect the women of Des Moines. If they don't care about the women of Des Moines, then that's another story."

Local 5 reached out to other members of the Des Moines City Council, as well as Mayor Frank Cownie. As of now, Mandelbaum did not say when he will be addressing these issues, so for now, the plans are still in progress.

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