Supporters of SF 253 attend the bill’s subcommittee hearing.
Supporters of SF 253 attend the bill’s subcommittee hearing.

Today was the day to see that next historic step by the Iowa Senate, in particular the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, to recognize that life begins at conception. The word went out late last week that today’s lunch hour would be the first public hearing on a life at conception bill; either SF 253 or HF297 must make it out of committee this week or the bill would die for the year, maybe for another four decades. There has been much discussion with representatives and senators behind the scenes and in the lobby over the last several weeks by the members of the recently brought together Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders (CoPLL). Now it was time to see how those efforts have paid off.

Starting at around 9 am supporters dressed in the suggested unifying black started showing up to sign in and grab t-shirts, signs, informative handouts with names and prayer suggestions, and little 12 week models of babies wrapped in blankets. There were homemade signs, bumper stickers (not made by any organization, just regular people!) proclaiming “Civil Rights for the Unborn”, lapel pins that show the little hands and feet of 10 to 12 week babies in the womb…and songs of worship intermingled with competing chants between the small pro-abortion crowd mostly in pink and the hundreds of pro-life supporters. At a couple of minutes after noon, State Senator Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) gaveled in the hearing.

Schultz led an orderly discussion, hearing testimony both for and against the legislation, despite the aforementioned frequent chanting, shouting, and singing from outside the chamber.

Among those speaking against the legislation were representatives from Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the American Civil Liberties Union, and maybe the most chilling, religious leaders from the Jewish faith and the United Church of Christ.

Planned Parenthood’s spokesperson notably called the legislation “extreme” and expressed concern the law could lead to prosecuting women who miscarry for “murder,” a charge later repeated by Sen. Janet Peterson. Additional concerns were raised about contraception and in-vitro fertilization, or IVF.

Martin Cannon, an attorney from the Thomas More Society, however, clarified that murder statutes require clear intent, rendering the prediction of prosecuting women for miscarriage “fantasy.”

Kim Laube of Lutheran Family Service of Iowa further detailed that nothing in SF253 prohibits in-vitro fertilization, and pointed to how Louisiana continues to practice IVF despite similar measures in place to protect preborn embryos.

Others speaking in favor of SF 253 were Rebecca Kiessling, an attorney and pro-life activist who was conceived in rape, and Luana Stoltenberg, who presented thousands of pages of affidavits from women who suffered unexpected harm from abortion procedures.

The subcommittee hearing concluded with State Senator Jake Chapman (R-Adel) passionately referencing the many “She’s a Baby” posters being held by the bill’s supporters and arguing that if any position were “extreme” in the debate, it would be that the law should allow the destruction of such babies.

Both Schultz and State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) enthusiastically voted for SF253 moving forward to full committee, while State Senator Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines) voted against.

As the hearing adjourned and the doors opened, applause could be heard from inside the room. Cheering the bill being passed on to the full Senate Judiciary Committee was contagious, as it spread throughout the crowd waiting anxiously on the stairs and all around the rotunda. Rebecca Kiessling remarked that it was like going through the receiving line at her wedding…people were so excited and were congratulating and high fiving the senators, the gallery, and those that testified. There were even tears of joy once the vote was announced.

This is a truly historic step. But the work is far from over. What would seem as if it would be a simple matter with the unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in here in Iowa; Major majorities in BOTH the house and Senate, a pro-life administration in the governor’s mansion, AND nearly all of the major pro-life organizations coming together. Sadly, it is not so easy. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. Please go to to find out how you can stay (or get) engaged. Contact the senators on the judiciary committee and encourage to do the right thing. Be courageous, be part of a first, be part of history!

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