2nd Update: DES MOINES, Iowa – SF 523, a bill that increases penalties for the nonconsensual death or serious injury of an unborn person, stalled out in the Iowa House Judiciary Committee without receiving a vote.

It is likely to be picked back up in the House next year. The primary issue with the bill was that of timing, not the content of the legislation according to State Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

“There’s 19 other states that use the term ‘unborn child,’ so I don’t think we should have an issue about that. Without having the time to properly vet this legislation and all the ins and outs regarding the legislation, we just didn’t have time to do our due diligence to advance it,” Holt told The Iowa Standard.

Update (4/2/19): DES MOINES, Iowa – SF 523 passed in the Iowa Senate last week advanced in the Iowa House on Monday.

A House subcommittee recommended the bill’s passage by a 2 to 1 vote. State Reps. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, and Steven Holt, R-Denison, voted in favor of the bill. State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, voted against it.

Pro-abortion opponents of the bill are concerned about the personhood language that was added by amendment before the bill’s passage in the Iowa Senate say it is unnecessary.

Those in favor of the bill state that unborn babies deserve the same justice as babies receive outside of the womb.

The bill must report out of the House Judiciary Committee by Friday to survive the second funnel deadline.

(Original 3/27/19) On Tuesday afternoon, the Iowa Senate passed SF 523, a bill that increases the penalties for the nonconsensual death of or serious injury of an unborn person, by a 30 to 18 party-line vote. All Republicans present voted for the bill while every Democrat opposed it.

An amendment by State Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, to the original bill adds personhood language in the Iowa Code in the instances when an unborn child is killed or seriously injured without the knowledge or consent of the mother replacing “human pregnancy” with “unborn person,” as well as, replaces “termination” with “death.”

Chapman was the floor manager for the bill.

Regarding the addition of the personhood language, Chapman said, “I think it is important that we call it what it is.”

“It recognizes that it is a person in the womb and as such should have rights and, in particular, I want to address one concern – this does not relate to abortion,” he stated.

“Those of you who have been here awhile know how strongly I feel on the issue of life when it comes to abortion. This bill, however, does not address that. This is nonconsensual; this is against a mother’s will; this is situations where people are committing crimes taking the life of an innocent baby and as such should receive proper punishment,” Chapman added.

Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, who unsuccessfully attempted to have the amendment declared non-germane to the bill spoke in opposition to the change.

“I believe this amendment is not germane to the bill because essentially what the Chapman amendment does is turns this legislation into a personhood bill which is quite extreme and unconstitutional,” she argued.

Petersen said the bill calls into question things like families attempting to start a family through in-vitro fertilization.

“There are no safeguards in this legislation that would protect common forms of family planning including IUDs and birth control pills,” Petersen stated.

“This bill could also open the doors to investigating all pregnancy loss coming after women at some of the hardest moments of their life after losing a baby to miscarriage and stillbirth,” she added.

“I think it is important to recognize that a crime triggers this penalty,” Chapman responded.

“I take exception to (the argument) that this would deal with IVF at all,” he added.

The legislation provides penalties that are based on the intent and circumstances. Those who cause the death of an unborn baby in the process of a forcible felony, the commission of a felony, or felonious assault are guilty of a class A felony which carries a life sentence.

Those who intentionally causes the death of an unborn baby or who unintentionally causes the death of an unborn baby because they drove while intoxicated is guilty of a class B felony which is punishable up to 25 years in prison.

Those who force the consent of mother to get an abortion through force or intimidation is guilty of a class C felony which is punishable up to 10 years in prison.

Those who cause the death of an unborn person through drag racing is guilty of a class D felony which is punishable up to five years in prison and a fine of $750 to $7500.

Those who unintentionally causes the death of an unborn baby without the voluntary consent or knowledge of the mother by the commission of an act in a manner likely to cause the death of or serious injury to an unborn baby is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor which is punishable up to 2 years in prison and a fine of $625 to $6250.

Those who intentionally cause the serious injury of an unborn child through actions likely to cause the death of or serious injury to a baby, or who seriously injure an unborn baby driving while intoxicated is also guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor.

Those who unintentionally cause a serious injury to an unborn baby through actions that are likely to cause the death of or serious injury to an unborn baby is guilty of a serious misdemeanor which is punishable up to one year in jail and a fine between $315 and $1875.

The bill heads to the Iowa House.

Photo Credit: Samir Luther (CC-By-SA 2.0)

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