According to my research, the last time a piece of pro-life legislation was signed into law in the state of Iowa, I was a freshman in college. It was 1996 when Governor Terry Branstad signed a parental notification bill into law.
The fourteen-year period where no pro-life legislation became law was a result of two pro-choice Democrats getting elected as governor. It was not an unwillingness by Republicans to advance the pro-life agenda. Legislative Republicans sent an informed consent law to Governor Vilsack in 2001. He vetoed it. They sent him the Unborn Victims of Violence Act in 2004. He vetoed that as well.
Now that a Republican once again occupies the governor’s office in Iowa, and that governor happens to be the same guy who signed the last piece of pro-life legislation into law, the opportunity to pass pro-life legislation is once again before us. However, with a Democratic majority in the Iowa Senate, getting pro-life legislation passed is not going to be an easy task.
Despite a willingness by Governor Branstad and Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen to pass or sign into law a number of pro-life pieces of legislation, including a bill that would block a late-term abortionist from setting up shop in Iowa, those in Iowa’s pro-life community are busy fighting amongst themselves.
This pro-life civil war has broken out over House File 5, a bill that would restrict late-term abortions in Iowa. The bill is modeled after a law that Nebraska’s legislature passed and its governor signed last April. The Nebraska law uses fetal pain as the basis for banning abortions instead of using the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision in Roe vs. Wade. The new law bans abortions after 20 weeks, whereas, under Roe, abortions are generally legal throughout the entire pregnancy.
After the 2010 elections, there was agreement among the pro-life community and Republican state legislators about what needed to be done. On Monday, November 21, 2010, Citizen Magazine published an article about the need to restrict late-term abortions in Iowa.
“We have a crisis now that has got the attention of House-speaker elect Kraig Paulsen,” Hurley said. “When Carhart announced that he was going to metastasize his evil deeds – he was going to take his late-term abortion practice into other states – the natural place to go was across the river into Council Bluffs, Iowa.”
Hurley said Planned Parenthood runs an online “telemed” chemical abortion pilot program in Iowa, which they hope to export to the other 49 states. It involves an abortionist consulting with a patient via webcam, then dispensing the abortion pill by remote control.
“There’s going to be legislation to try to limit – or eliminate – these ‘telemed’ abortions,” he said. “I have talked to several of the new legislators. They will be also pushing for a clear statement on the personhood of every human being from the moment of conception.”
Hurley’s comments came after Bob Vander Plaats took over the day-to-day operation of the Iowa Family Policy Center and changed its name to The FAMiLY Leader. While Hurley said the obstacle was going to be the Democrat controlled Senate, it’s actually been his own organization and two freshmen state representatives with close ties to his organization, Rep. Kim Pearson and Rep. Glen Massie.
Pearson and Massie, who both sit on the House Human Resources committee, refused to support the late-term abortion bill that would prevent LeRoy Carhart, the well-known Nebraska abortionist, from setting up a facility in Iowa. It’s not that Pearson and Massie are not pro-life. It’s that they refused to support the bill because Iowa law would still allow unborn babies that have are not yet at 20 weeks to be aborted.
Pearson and Massie’s two votes on the Human Resources Committee were necessary for the bill to pass out of committee. Late last week, Speaker Paulsen had to re-assign the bill to the House Government Oversight Committee so that the bill could avoid being aborted by this Friday’s legislative funnel.
Rep. Pearson also sits on the Government Oversight Committee, but her vote is not necessary for the bill to pass out of that committee. Rep. Chris Hagenow, the committee chairman, has told TheIowaRepublican.com that the bill will make it out of his committee.
Unable to support the late-term abortion ban, Pearson introduced House File 153, a bill that protects life at conception. That bill must now pass the Human Resources Committee by Friday for it to be debated and voted on in the Iowa House, let alone the Iowa Senate.
While Pearson’s personhood bill has her and Massie’s support, it seems to lack the necessary votes to make it out of committee as Friday’s funnel deadline nears. An email sent by The FAMiLY Leader last Thursday stated, “There are 12 Republicans and 9 Democrats on the committee. It takes 11 votes for the bill to pass out of committee. So far only 6 members have said they will vote yes without reservation.”
The email also contained information about where each of the Republican members on the committee stands on the bill. Pearson, Massie, Mark Brandenburg, Ron Jorgenson, Joel Fry, and Kevin Koester support the bill in its current form. Linda Miller, Renee Schulte, Dave Heaton, and Julian Garrett will only support the bill if it explicitly protects the life of the mother. Rich Anderson and Mark Lofgren simply said that they are either neutral or don’t support the bill in its current form.
Had Speaker Paulsen not moved the late-term abortion bill out of the Human Resources Committee, it is likely that no pro-life bills would have even been eligible for consideration by the entire House of Representatives. One also has to wonder whether or not Pearson and Massie’s refusal to support the late-term abortion ban has made it more difficult for Pearson to find the necessary votes to pass her personhood bill. Either way, the debate within the pro-life community as put the other pro-life bills at risk.
The bill that would block LeRoy Carhart from performing his late-term abortions should have already been voted out of committee and the House of Representatives. Had that happened, the pro-life community could have put its entire focus on passing other pro-life reforms like defunding Planned Parenthood, outlawing webcam or “telemed” abortions, requiring informed consent before abortions, and Pearson’s personhood bill.
Instead of the current legislative session being one of the most pro-life sessions in the state’s history, or at least in the Iowa House, there is a real danger that it could end up being just like the previous fourteen years, full of good intentions, but lacking in results.
After being assigned to the House Government Oversight Committee, House File 5 does not have to deal with the funnel deadlines. As mentioned above, the late-term abortion bill will likely pass the Iowa House. If any bill has a chance to pass the Democrat controlled Senate, it’s this bill.
While it is necessary to pass House File 5, we also need to encourage our legislators to move the other pro-life bills in the Human Resources committee so that they can be considered in the House. Please call your legislators and encourage them to pass House File 153 (Personhood Bill), House File 192 (Telemed), and House File 87 (Defund Planned Parenthood).
A list of Representatives can be found here. Or you can contact them at the state capitol by calling 515-281-3221.
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