Iowa House bans research on aborted fetuses

Mascher: Measure unlikely to become law

The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The reflection of the dome of the State Capitol building is seen in a puddle in Des Moines on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The Iowa House approved legislation that would go beyond federal law banning the sale of fetal tissue by adding a prohibition on medical and scientific research on aborted fetuses.

Although there is no evidence of trafficking in fetal tissue in Iowa, Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, said the ban on fetal body part sales would be a “pro-active” move because there is no prohibition in state law.

House File 2329 “brings dignity to the conversation for all human life,” Fry said before the House approved it, 56-43, after a 90-minute debate Wednesday.

The bill would create a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of at least $1,000 for knowingly acquiring, providing, receiving, transferring or using a fetal body part. It does not apply to diagnostic or remedial tests, procedures or observations to determine the life or health of the fetus or a pregnant woman.

Opponents called the provisions beyond those that mirror federal law unnecessary and unnecessarily political.

“This is clearly political,” Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said. “Don’t tie the hands of researchers.”

Although lawmakers may disagree with a woman’s choice to have an abortion and donate the aborted fetus for research, Wessel-Kroeschell said it’s not their decision to make. “We can’t make personal decisions for every Iowan,” she said.


For Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, the issue was personal. She told the House about her retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited genetic disorder that affects the retina’s ability to respond to light.

She feels fortunate because she has the condition in only one eye and because University of Iowa scientists and doctors are trying to cure the condition.

The impact of the bill would be to shut down research and make it less likely the UI and Iowa State can attract and retain medical and scientific researchers, Mascher said.

The good news, Mascher said, is that because the deadline for legislation to clear one chamber and a committee of the other is Friday, “this bill will never become law this year.”

“The bad news is that it sends wrong message to researchers,” she said.



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