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‘Deadly force’ bill advances out of committee
A bill that allows Iowans to protect themselves or others with deadly force has been approved by an Iowa House committee, clearing its first legislative hurdle on the way to becoming law.
The bill, House File 7, has drawn critics, especially within the ranks of law enforcement, who hold concerns that the measure could result in an escalation of a situation that otherwise might have been resolved non-violently. And, as The Iowa Independent previously reported, legal experts fear that when combined with legislation assigning personhood rights to fertilized eggs, the bill could allow those on trial for killing abortion or family planning providers to say they acted in defense of another person.
Had the measure had not gained committee approval this week, it would have effectively been defeated for the 2011 legislative session. Yet, while the move by the committee guarantees that the bill will have a chance for further debate, it does not mean that the measure will ultimately be adopted by both chambers and sent to Gov. Terry Branstad.
Sponsored by 29 GOP House members, House File 7 seeks to expand state law regarding use of reasonable force, including deadly force. Current state laws provide that citizens are not required to retreat from their dwelling or place of business if they or a third party are threatened. The proposal would significantly expand this so that citizens are not required to retreat from “any place at which the person has a right to be present,” and that in such instances, the citizen has the right to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect himself or a third party from serious injury or death or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
The proposed legislation also provide criminal and civil immunity for those that use such force, unless a subsequent police investigation shows probably cause that the actions taken were not “reasonable.”
… A law enforcement agency may use standard investigating procedures for investigating the use of force, but the law enforcement agency shall not arrest a person for using force unless the law enforcement agency determines there is probable cause that the force was unlawful under this chapter.
If it is later determined by a court or jury that the person was justified in using reasonable force under the circumstances, and the person is found not liable in a civil court, the person shall be awarded reasonable attorney fees, court costs, compensation for loss of any income, and reimbursement of any other expenses incurred as a result of being arrested and charged, to be paid by the civil plaintiff. …
Lawmakers on the House Public Safety Committee voted 13-9 to advance the bill. The vote fell strictly along party lines.
The “personhood” bill, which has been championed by Iowa’s social conservatives, has not yet gained the committee approval it needs in order to advance in this legislative session. The Family Leader and other conservative groups continue to push their supporters to encourage lawmaker support for the measure.
If both bills would become law, legal experts believe the combination could prove deadly for abortion providers. One bill states that a person exists from the moment of conception, while the other allows for the use of deadly force for the protection of such a person.
In addition, the “personhood” bill would likely make illegal any form of birth control that creates an unwelcome environment in a woman’s uterus for a fertilized egg. Using those guidelines, it remains unclear if pharmacists dispensing birth control pills or emergency contraception — or family planning counselors advocating their use — could be viewed as someone endangering the life of “a person.”
The two bills combined also appear to place women in the role of second-class citizen. Although House File 7 would allow any Iowan facing danger to react to and eliminate such a danger, even if such actions led to the death of another person, the “personhood” bill provides so such path for pregnant women facing medical complications. House File 153, the “personhood” bill, does not include language that would allow legal abortion under any circumstance.
Lobbyist declarations on House File 7 show 15 organization publicly opposing the measure, ranging from the Iowa Police Chief Association to the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. Gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association of America and the Iowa Firearms Coalition along with social conservative organizations like the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition are registered in support.
Only the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition has also registered its support of House File 153, the “personhood” bill. The Iowa Independent did reach out to the group’s lobbyist, Norm Pawlewski, for the organization’s reasoning behind the two supportive declarations, but no response was provided.