Iowa State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) has introduced three pro-life bills this session.
Photo credit: Iowa Senate Republicans

We are into week 2 of the 2017 session of the Iowa General Assembly and there have been a significant number of pro-life bills filed in the Iowa Senate with its new Republican majority. Thus far all of the pro-life legislation this session has been filed in the Senate.

The first bill is a major priority for Iowa Senate Republicans, as well as Iowa House Republicans and Governor Terry Branstad, redirects taxpayer funds for family planning services away from organizations that perform abortions to public community health centers, federally qualified health centers, non-public organizations that provide family planning services wither they offer primary health services or not.

Senate File 2, introduced on the first day of the session, specifically states in terms of organizations no longer eligible to receive this funding, “Distribution of family planning services program funds shall not be made to any entity that performs abortions or that maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed.”

Additionally the bill reads,”Family planning services program funds distributed in accordance with this section shall not be used for direct or indirect costs, including but not limited to administrative costs or expenses, overhead, employee salaries, rent, and telephone and other utility costs, related to providing abortions as specified in subsection 4.”

SF 2 is sponsored by State Senator Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) and is co-sponsored by the rest of the Senate Republican Caucus which includes State Senators Bill Anderson (R-Pierson), Jerry Behn (R-Boone), Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City), Michael Breitbach (R-Strawberry Point), Waylon Brown (R-St. Ansgar), Jake Chapman (R-Adel), Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), Mark Costello (R-Imogene), Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs), Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock), Jeff Elder (R-State Center), Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), Julian Garrett (R-Indianola), Tom Greene (R-Burlington), Dennis Guth (R-Klemme), Craig Johnson (R-Independence), Tim Kapucian (R-Keystone), Tim Kraayenbrink (R-Ft. Dodge), Mark Lofgren (R-Muscatine), Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa), Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines), Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig), Mark Segebart (R-Vail), Tom Shipley (R-Nodaway), Roby Smith (R-Davenport), Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny), Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), and Dan Zumbach (R-Ryan).

The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and placed in a subcommittee with Sinclair, Schultz and State Senator Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines). This bill will pass out of the Iowa Senate likely with at least 30 votes since the entire Republican caucus is involved in sponsorship and State Senator David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan), a pro-life Senator who left the Republican caucus over the summer, will likely vote for this bill as well.

Iowa Community Action Association, the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, League of Women Voters of Iowa, AFSCME Council 61, ACLU of Iowa, Family Planning Council of Iowa, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Iowa Interfaith Alliance, and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland have registered their opposition to the bill.

Registered in support of the bill so far are The FAMiLY Leader, Personhood Iowa, and Iowa Catholic Conference. Jenifer Bowen of Iowa Right to Life and Life Right Action also said last week during the announcement of the newly formed Iowa Coalition of Pro-Life leaders that the coalition was supportive of SF 2.

State Senator Chelgren introduced Senate File 26 this bill extends the ability of women to sue physicians who have performed abortions on them. The explanation of the bill reads:

This bill establishes a cause of action that may be maintained by a woman upon whom an abortion has been performed against the physician who performed the abortion to recover damages for any emotional distress, whether or not independent of a physical injury, proximately caused as the result of the physician’s negligence or failure to obtain informed consent prior to performance of the abortion. The action may be brought at any time during the lifetime of the woman. The bill provides that the signing of a consent form by the woman prior to the abortion does not negate the cause of action, but may reduce the recovery of damages to the extent that the content of the consent form informed the woman of the risk of the type of injuries for which the woman is seeking damages. The bill also provides that other existing statutory or common law causes of action for medical malpractice are not to be construed to be rendered inapplicable to abortion procedures or diminish the nature or the extent of those causes of action. The cause of action expressly specified in the bill is in addition to any other statutory or common law cause of action.

This bill does not include abortions done as the result of a medical emergency which is defined as the mother being “at risk of death and/or substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

The bill is opposed by all of the groups opposed to SF 2 plus the Iowa Medical Society, the Iowa Independent Physicians Group, and The Iowa Clinic. The FAMiLY Leader and the Iowa Catholic Conference have registered support of the bill. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee last Tuesday and was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of Garrett, Elder and State Senator Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines).

Chelgren also introduced Senate File 54 which has several elements. (I’m using the term “fetus” as that is what is used in the bill.)

  • It adds fetuses that weigh 350 grams or more to the definition of “person” applicable in Iowa’s murder statute.
  • Requires a fetal death certificate for fetuses weighing 350 grams or more.
  • The intentional termination of a human pregnancy (of fetuses weighing 350 grams or more) with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the mother, with the exception of it being done by licensed physician in order to preserve the life and health of the mother, is deemed feticide which would be a class C felony.
  • A failed attempt to intentionally terminate a human pregnancy (of fetuses weighing 350 grams or more) with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the mother is deemed attempted feticide which then would be a class D felony.
  • A person who intentionally kills a fetus weighing 350 grams or more who is aborted alive shall be guilty of a class B felony.
  • It also would charge those who fail to give professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life of a fetus, weighing 350 grams or more, aborted alive with a serious misdemeanor.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, ACLU of Iowa, Iowa Coalition of Sexual Assault and League of Women Voters of Iowa have registered against the bill. No pro-life lobbyist thus far has expressed support. It was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senators Sinclair, Petersen and Elder after being referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

State Senator Zaun introduced Senate File 27 which prohibits any federal health care reform funds (from current or future law) sent to Iowa from being used for abortions or for the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortions.

After being introduced into the Senate Judiciary Committee it was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senators Sinclair, Petersen and Garrett.

This bill is opposed by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, ACLU of Iowa, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, and League of Women Voters of Iowa. The FAMiLY Leader and Iowa Catholic Conference have registered in support of the bill.

Zaun also introduced Senate File 52 that makes the acquisition and transfer of fetal body parts, whether it is for “valuable consideration” or not, a class C felony. The exception is for testing done to determine the health and life of the the fetus.

Registered against the bill are Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, ACLU of Iowa, and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. The FAMiLY Leader is the only pro-life group registered in support of the bill thus far.

SF 52 was introduced in the Senate Human Resources Committee and was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senators Chapman, Segebart and Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames).

Zaun also introduced a third bill, Senate File 53, is ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Fifteen states so far have 20-week abortion bans on the books, and Kentucky lawmakers passed their version earlier this month. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has indicated he would sign the bill into law.

Iowa if it passes this bill would be the 17th state banning abortions after 20-weeks provided Kentucky’s law does in fact become law. The only exception for the ban is in the case of a medical emergency where death of the mother or substantial and irreversible bodily harm is at risk.

This bill is opposed by the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, ACLU of Iowa, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, League of Women Voters of Iowa, and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. So far no pro-life group has registered in favor of the bill, the Iowa Catholic Conference has registered for the bill, but their lobbyists are currently undecided.

The bill was introduced in the Senate Human Resources Committee and was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senators Costello, Chelgren and Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City).

These are unlikely to be the last bills as the Coalition of Pro-life Leaders are also making a life at conception bill a priority this year and there hasn’t been one filed yet.

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