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EXCLUSIVE: State lawmakers draft bill to end access to abortion, birth control
Sixteen Iowa lawmakers — 15 Republicans and one Democrat — have begun a process that could result in an amendment of the Iowa Constitution, but the focus isn’t same-sex marriage. The proposed amendment calls for the state to recognize human eggs as persons worthy of legal protection, effectively ending any access to abortion and possibly to contraception.
The “personhood” initiative is the latest strategy by anti-abortion forces, and is being pushed in Iowa and 29 other states. At recent demonstrations in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, the controversial pastor of a prominent California African American evangelical ministry explained that the initiative allows those who oppose abortion to equate their cause with historic civil rights movements.
“There was no Supreme Court decision that … overturned Dred Scott,” said Rev. John Hunter during the demonstrations. “That is not what freed the slaves. Dred Scott never got overturned, and, look at me: I’m free.”
According to Personhood Colorado, one of the longest standing and most active branches of the national group Personhood USA, American physicians under the auspices of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists changed the definition of contraception to not only describe medications that prevent fertilization of an egg, but those that prohibit or discourage implantation in the uterus. For this reason, the personhood initiative seeks to ban nearly all forms of prevalent birth control, except barrier methods such as condoms.
Critics of the initiative have been quick to point out that a woman’s body naturally miscarry frequently — and often early enough so that the woman in question is not aware of anything more than a heavier than usual menstrual cycle. They question if women could be considered culpable during such miscarriages for destroying what the state has identified as a person worthy of legal protection. Proponents of the change indicate that women would have to both cause the miscarriage and do so with “criminal intent” before such a legal proceeding would take place. It remains unclear, however, if a woman who suffers a miscarriage could be charged criminally if she knowingly engaged in activity known to be detrimental to early pregnancy, such as illicit drug use, smoking, alcohol consumption, horseback riding and unusually strenuous exercise.
What both sides agree upon is that the measure, if adopted into states’ constitutions, will ban all abortions and all embryonic stem cell research.
The language introduced in Iowa reads as follows:
The right to life is the paramount and most fundamental right of every person. With respect to the fundamental and inalienable rights of all persons guaranteed in this Constitution, the word “person’ applies to all human beings, irrespective of age, health, function, physical or mental dependency, or method of reproduction, whether in vivo or in vitro, from the beginning of their biological development, including the single-cell human embryo.
The statement was introduced as a joint resolution to amend the Iowa Constitution. In order for the amendment to become law it would need to be adopted in two separate sessions of the Iowa legislature before being placed on the ballot for final ratification in a public vote. The measure was introduced and sent to the House Committee on State Government, where it was further referred to a subcommittee. There is no reason to believe, given the current make-up of the Iowa legislature and the committee reviewing the bill, that this measure will find a path to the chamber floor — at least not during the current legislative session.
Iowa Republican Reps. Dwayne Alons (Hull), Royd Chambers (Sheldon), Jodi Tymeson (Winterset), Mike May (Spirit Lake), Kevin Koester (Ankeny), Matt Windschitl (Missouri Valley), Jason Schultz (Schleswig), Betty DeBoef (What Cheer), Kent Sorenson (Indianola), Annette Sweeney (Alden), Daniel Huseman (Aurelia), Jeff Kaufmann (Wilton), Henry Rayhons (Garner), Chris Hagenow (Windsor Heights) and Chuck Soderberg (Le Mars) joined with Democratic Rep. Delores Mertz (Ottosen) to sponsor the joint resolution.