(Des Moines, IA) Over the last few years it was widely known, but not a widely publicized fact that there was disunity among pro-life groups in Iowa. With a split legislature it was difficult to find consensus about the right strategy and bills to pursue among both pro-life lobbyists and legislators. As a result there has been little progress on the life issue.
Prior to the election there was a concerted effort spearheaded by Scott Valencia, the COO of Iowa Right to Life, to bring different groups to the table to find common ground and a common cause.
The result is a new coalition of pro-life leaders around the state and a pledge they signed at the Iowa State Capitol Wednesday afternoon with many state lawmakers bearing witness.
The pledge reads:
As we are all representatives of Iowa organizations with the intent to eliminate abortion and any of its related industries for both moral and legal reasons in our state;
As we all agree that the legislature of our state, needs guidance from its citizens and religious leaders to maintain its moral compass;
As we all agree that every life, from the time of conception must have a voice and be protected by the laws of any moral state;
We hereby bind together under the name of God, without malice or ill intent, with unity of purpose and all deference and humility toward the cause, our organizations under this coalition with the following principles:
WE SHALL Respect the pro-life point of view before all public officials, recognizing that some diversity of strategy may exist, but we all value saving the lives of the unborn;
WE SHALL Train leaders and volunteers for effective social and political action, and dissemination of factual information, documentation and publications supporting the cause;
WE SHALL Inform pro-life voters about timely issues and legislation, and arm them with facts to aid our public officials in the completion of good and just works furthering the cause of protecting the unborn;
WE SHALL Challenge pro-abortion deception in the public arena;
WE SHALL Convert pro-choice, or undecided citizens to the cause of LIFE with factual information, understanding and compassion.
Today, the pro-life community needs to play an active role in government like never before. If we are going to change policy and influence decisions, it is imperative that the people of faith and moral fiber should commit to doing the hard work, with forbearance and tenacity to achieve our goals without recognition to ourselves, but to give glory to God.
We are driven by the belief that people have the right and responsibility to be involved in the world around them, and our coalition is committed to representing the pro-life cause and educating Iowans on the critical issues facing our society. We hereby pledge with our signatures to this document to achieve these common goals presented here.
The organizations whose representatives signed this pledge are: Iowa Right to Life, The FAMiLY Leader, Iowans for LIFE, Iowa PAC for Life, Life Right Action, Restored by Grace Ministries, Personhood Iowa, Lutheran Family Service of Iowa, and the Thomas More Society. The Catholic Coalition and Lutherans for Life are also supporters of the Iowa Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders.
“For us today is not doubt a historic occasion. It is marking the first time in more than 40 years that Iowa’s pro-life has been so resolved to unite together,” Jennifer Bowen, spokesperson for Iowa Right to Life and founder of Right Life Action said during the formal signing ceremony.
“We knew that if we came together as one we could accomplish much, much more than we could do as individual organizations. We all saw that and really wanted to come together and make some things happen here in Iowa,” Maggie DeWitte, the executive director for Iowans for LIFE, told Caffeinated Thoughts.
The significance of this can’t be understated.
“Oh I think this is great to see all of the pro-life community coming together to work for legislation, and I think this year with a new Republican majority in the Senate we have a real chance to have some meaningful pro-life legislation passed,” State Senator Dennis Guth (R-Klemme) told Caffeinated Thoughts.
“This is significant because it is the first time in my time down here in the legislature that the vast majority of the pro-life groups have come together to rally around one concept and one idea. We are going to work together to advance the cause of protecting the unborn,” State Representative Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) shared with Caffeinated Thoughts.
State Senator Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) agreed. “This is a big day to get all of the pro-life groups in Iowa on the same page with the same agenda as we take over a Republican majority in the Senate, House and the Governor’s mansion. That is extremely helpful as we are trying to pass a positive pro-life agenda. I know our caucus and the Governor are all making life a priority so to have these groups together and united is a huge first step,” he said.
“It is historic, and I don’t say that lightly. There has been too often well meaning individuals and well meaning organizations that got caught up in strategy, that got caught up in the minors instead of the majors. And that is why we didn’t want to divert from life at conception, ‘she’s a baby,’ ‘daughter in the womb,’ because that is what is going to bind us together. As long as we can keep the focus the focus, the main thing the main thing – that God created life and our commitment and resolve each one of those days that’s ordained gets lived out – I think that will keep us together,” Bob Vander Plaats, President and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader told Caffeinated Thoughts.
“I think it is very significant, I really do. It was something I never thought we would see,” Steve Deace, a nationally syndicated radio host and founder of Personhood Iowa said to Caffeinated Thoughts. “I am a big believer of the plaque Reagan used to have on his desk in the Oval Office, ‘It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit for it.'”
“I don’t think there is anyway to possibly quantify the significance of what just happened,” Bowen told Caffeinated Thoughts after the signing. “Collectively we have come together, we have been organizations that have worked in different areas and different arenas, all pro-life binding, all like-minded, and today we came forward in a force that has never been seen before in Iowa, quite possibly the country, and it is a force to be reckoned with. Everything, everything has now changed. You saw a historic election in states across the country and now we are seeing that play out in the legislative level. So there is absolutely no way to quantify the significance of what just happened.”
Because, some believe, Iowa has the most pro-life legislature in its history the goals have changed for the legislative session. The priorities for the Coalition for this legislative session is the redirection of taxpayer funds from abortion providers to true women’s health care centers. Iowa has 213 community health centers that could benefit from the roughly $300,000 that abortion providers have received from state taxpayer funds in Iowa recently for some of the non-abortion services they provide.
“This is so more. Women can have more access and more choices,” Bowen said during a Q&A with the media.
The group also is putting forward a “life at conception act” that will simply say “life begins at conception. They are still studying in what form that language will come.
Prior to this it was difficult to even see legislation that brought incremental change such as webcam abortions or late-term abortion bans passed.
Bowen told Caffeinated Thoughts that it is incredible to consider that the “low-hanging fruit” of their agenda this year is redirecting money way from abortion providers. “Nothing is off limits,” she said.
Bowen noted that legislators may bring up additional bills and the coalition will have to decide how they will handle each bill when it comes, but their two priorities are the redirection of funds and the life at conception act.
What if there is disagreement on strategy as we’ve seen in the past?
“We come to the table and talk to each other – every single time. We are in communication with each other, no exaggeration, we are in communication with one another multiple times every single day,” Bowen told Caffeinated Thoughts. “Another unique thing about this coalition is that we all need to be in unity – unanimously – to be able to move forward on things and that leads to a lot of conversations and leads to a lot of engagement.”
“We meant it, we are unified… we are stronger together.”
Watch the formal presentation and signing below:
Watch the Q&A with media below: