Iowa coalition pushes again for 'personhood' bill

Measure saying life begins at conception failed before

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URBANDALE — Members of a coalition opposed to abortion rights said Wednesday they plan to push the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds next session to approve a measure declaring that life begins at conception as part of a broad effort to overturn the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Scott Valencia, president of the Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders, told members of the Westside Conservative Club that backers of Senate File 253 plan to push the “personhood” bill again in 2018 after it fell two votes short of passing a Senate committee last March.

“That is going to be a hard, uphill battle,” Valencia conceded, but he noted successes last session in defunding Planned Parenthood and enacting a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion and a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks.

“We have legislators, we have the governor saying we’re not done,” said Drew Zahn of The Family Leader organization. “We’re of the same mind — we’re not done pressing this issue until legislators, until the culture, recognizes this fundamental truth that that little girl kicking in her mother’s womb — she’s a baby.”

Republicans took full control of the Iowa Legislature after the 2016 election, and Valencia said groups opposed to abortion rights are looking at the task in front of them as a two-year journey.

“After that session was coming to a close, a lot of them stood up and said this is not over, we believe in this,” Valencia said. “So we have to give them the opportunity to complete what they said they were going to do.”

Once the 2018 session is completed, the coalition plans to produce a score card to show their members how legislators who garnered and received the backing of the organizations voted on priorities in deciding which candidates to support next time, he said.

The legislation — which women’s health organizations argue will have far-reaching and unintended consequences — would make it so that life is “protected from the moment of conception … and accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons.”

“That bill is a very dangerous bill for Iowa families,” said Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines. “It would outlaw common forms of birth control and the consequences of that legislation would be dire.”

But Zahn said the key point of the bill is that it challenges the question of when life begins and seeks to bring that basic principle before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Ultimately, this is about more than just stopping abortion, this is about the baby in the womb and preserving all life from conception to natural death,” Zahn said.

“Isn’t it about time that we finally have the conversation of when does life begin? Someone has to move the ball forward on that fundamental question,” he told the conservative gathering. “It takes one state.“

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