DES MOINES — An Iowa bill that effectively could ban abortions by declaring that life begins at conception cleared a major hurdle Monday, passing through a Senate subcommittee before this week’s funnel deadline.
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who chaired the judiciary subcommittee, said the bill, SF 253, likely will go before the full Senate Judiciary committee Wednesday or Thursday and then be approved ahead of Friday’s funnel for future debate by the full Senate.
The legislation — which women’s health organization 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.”
The so-called personhood bill is meant to align all aspects of Iowa law, said Zaun, one of 21 co-sponsors of the bill. If a pregnant woman is killed by a boyfriend or husband, the prosecutor is able to bring two murder charges, he said, and unborn children are included in Medicaid figures.
“We have been building framework of law that treats one of the most serious decisions we have to make with violence — death as a solution,” he said.
Anti-abortion advocates packed the statehouse — dressed in black, they carried signs, chanted and sang, spilling out of the meeting room and into the capitol rotunda.
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“All other rights are worthless if you don’t have right to life,” said Rebecca Kiessling, a professional speaker and anti-abortion activist from Michigan.
Kiessling’s birth mother was raped in the early 1970s, before Roe v Wade made abortion legal. She said that without anti-abortion legislators, she would not be alive today.
But several groups argued that the bill effectively would ban abortion — a legal medical procedure — and have unintended consequences, including limiting in vitro fertilization, limiting birth control options and even hurting the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine’s OB-GYN accreditation.
“This bill is extreme and reckless,” said Erin Davison-Rippey, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “No other legislation of this kind has passed in this entire country.”
Davinson-Rippey said that any Iowa woman who has negative results from a pregnancy could be at risk under the bill.
“It could endanger the lives of pregnant women by preventing doctors to treat ectopic pregnancies, it could criminalize doctors, and investigate women who suffer miscarriage,” she said.
The “loose” language in the bill also could ban the most effective types of birth control, including the pill, the shot, the contraceptive patch, the implant and intrauterine devices, argued Jodi Tomlonovic, executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa.
That’s because hormonal birth control methods and IUDS prevent pregnancies through stopping the ovulation of an egg; preventing or impairing the motility of sperm; and developing a uterine environment that does not support implantation of a fertilized egg.
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“It is the last mode that causes all of these methods to be banned under SF 253,” Tomlonovic said. “In any given instance, we don’t know which of the three modes prevents the pregnancy from occurring.
“This will negatively impact thousands of Iowans who are attempting to avoid a pregnancy,” she added. “It will increase the number of unintended pregnancies and the number of abortions.”
On Tuesday, the Senate will discuss a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks.
Also on Tuesday, the Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders, a group of 10 anti-abortion organizations active in Iowa, will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. in the Iowa Capitol, room 116, on its new “She’s a Baby” marketing campaign.
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