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Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the case that established federal protections for abortions in this country for nearly 50 years, thus opening the door for conservative lawmakers to enact more abortion restrictions in their states.
The decision to overturn the landmark 1973 case has many Democrats worried how lawmakers on the other side of the aisle will use this opportunity. Even before this ruling was handed down, GOP state and federal legislators have introduced a slew of proposals that aimed to reduce abortion access nationwide.
Liz Mathis, a Democrat challenging GOP Rep. Ashley Hinson for her seat in the U.S. House, recently posted a tweet about Hinson’s support for a “personhood” bill introduced last year. On June 17, Mathis tweeted:
“This Iowa Supreme Court ruling is another step toward Ashley Hinson’s goal of criminalizing abortions even in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk. Congress must pass legislation to protect reproductive rights by codifying Roe.”
The tweet was referencing Hinsons’s support of the Life at Conception Act, a bill introduced in the House in February 2021, Mathis’s campaign told the Fact Checker. It has not passed the Democratic-controlled House.
Hinson is among 163 Republican co-sponsors of H.R. 1011, a proposal that guarantees a constitutional “right to life of each born and preborn human person.”
This legislation is a personhood bill, one of many proposals over the years that aims to block abortions at all stages by legally recognizing all stages of human development as persons. The bill defines human beings protected under this measure as those “at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.”
The bill’s language states this constitutional right is “vested in each human being,” and does not indicate any exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the pregnant person is at risk.
It should be noted Hinson previously supported these exemptions as a state legislator when voting in favor of the so-called fetal heartbeat law in May 2018. That law was later blocked in court and has not gone into effect.
With the idea that life begins at conception, personhood laws grant fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos and fetuses the same status as victims in other scenarios. Because of this, some legal experts — as well as Mathis’s campaign — have argued abortion could result in criminal charges, such as homicide.
The Life at Conception Act specifically states that nothing within the bill “shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.”
But the bill does not explicitly protect anyone else from criminal charges, such as abortion providers or those who help others obtain an abortion. The freshman representative from Iowa has not publicly stated whether she would support criminal charges in this scenario.
Still, recent actions by some GOP lawmakers nationwide have abortion rights advocates worried that criminalizing abortions will be the reality in a post-Roe world. In Louisiana, for instance, the governor recently signed a law that increased penalties for doctors and others who terminate pregnancies to a maximum $100,000 fine and 10 years in prison.
The Life at Conception Act, co-sponsored by Hinson, would outlaw all abortions with no exceptions in cases of rape, incest or risk to the pregnant person.
The bill in question does eliminate the possibility for criminal charges for individuals who receive an abortion, but it does not provide the same guarantees for others.
Hinson has never publicly stated she would support legislation that includes criminal penalties for abortions. But the broad scope of the personhood law does have implications for criminalization of abortion.
The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate or officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in advocacy ads that appear in our market.
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Members of the Fact Checker team are Elijah Decious, Erin Jordan, Marissa Payne and Michaela Ramm. This Fact Checker was researched and written by Michaela Ramm.