There have been questions about why many pro-life groups, including Iowa Right to Life, have not declared support for State Representative Tom Shaw’s “Personhood” bill, House File 138. This bill creates a definition of person to include the unborn in the criminal code, makes conforming changes to the code, and includes a severability clause. It would criminalize both physicians and mothers involved in abortions. We applaud the passion the bill’s author and his co-sponsors’ concern for the unborn and we share it wholeheartedly. There has been some confusion and strong rhetoric from many regarding this bill and others like it at the Capitol this year. Rep. Shaw’s bill is not the only bill seeking to end all abortion in the State, so let us address a couple of the three or four personhood bills currently introduced.
Although we have concerns about the practical and legal effect of personhood legislation at the State level when an act of Congress or the United States Supreme Court is the best and most direct way to overturn Roe v. Wade; we have been willing to sign on to personhood bills in the past and have during this legislative session as well.
When considering what bills to support or oppose that are introduced each year (and there are many!), we not only look at the intent, but also drafting errors, legal pitfalls, and how that legislation fits in with our philosophy for how to end all abortion in Iowa.
Iowa Right to Life has always been an organization that believes its calling is to “love them both.” Before Roe vs. Wade, most States’ prohibitions on abortion did not criminalize the mother like House File 138 seeks to do. They held the physician responsible for the homicide we all agree abortion is. Physicians frequently have all the power and the knowledge available to influence these young women at one of their most vulnerable times in life. Physicians are the experts young woman look to when they come in or are taken in often scared and at times even coerced. The physician, when abortion is finally outlawed again, should be responsible for the death of the unborn if an illegal abortion is performed.
If you are a mom, a dad or a grandparent with a child or grandchild suffering under the weight of their abortion because they bought the lies being sold to them by the abortion industry: do you want that child or grandchild to be tried for murder?
Iowa Right to Life has signed on to House File 171, a personhood bill by State Representative Matt Windschitl. This bill, like Rep. Shaw’s, adds the definition of person in the criminal code to include the unborn, but does so without criminalizing young girls and without legal pitfalls such as HF 138’s severability clause that put pro-life tools in the Code at risk of being stricken. The two bills accomplish the same end but one shows compassion and solid jurisprudence. In addition to these two bills, there is at least one additional competing personhood bill in the Senate with another one supposedly on the way.
Representative Shaw and the co-sponsors of his personhood bill should be commended for their passion and their desire to join the fight for the unborn. Their personhood bill is only one of many, however, at the Capitol. We hope that, regardless of which version of personhood various organizations and individuals support or do not support, we will treat each other with dignity and respect; honoring each other in the spirit of unity and love. Iowa Right to Life is committed to this principle and we call on each of the other pro-life groups in Iowa to join us in committing to supporting each other to whatever extent possible given our unique niches in the pro-life movement.
We can’t all do everything. We do not claim to corner the market on all that is prolife. There is much to be done. Iowa Right to Life invests much of its time organizing prayer efforts through 40 Days for Life, educating the grassroots to change the culture that will ultimately result in a pro-life State government, as well as weighing in on public policy each legislative session. We’ll continue to vigorously educate and advocate for all innocent life!
Iowa Right to Life supports our friends across the pro-life spectrum. We may disagree on which bill is worth putting our full efforts and resources into. We may disagree on the best strategy to overturn Roe vs. Wade. We respect and honor, however, anyone who shares that goal with us. Iowa Right to Life will continue to monitor the many personhood bills being introduced at the Capitol this year and in the future. We will always consider support for any life-saving bills that pass legal muster and show love for both the unborn and his/her mother.