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Iowa Senate GOP Pass Bill Democrats Say Is Attempt At ‘Personhood’ Law

John Pemble/IPR file
Supporters say the proposal would not apply to abortion, but opponents say it's an attempt to establish 'personhood' for a fetus.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate have voted to significantly increase the sentence for anyone convicted of intentionally or accidentally causing the termination of a pregnancy against the mother’s wishes. Sen. Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, said a life prison sentence is “proper punishment” for such a crime.

“It recognizes that is a person in the womb and, as such, should have rights,” Chapman said.

The proposal would not apply to abortion, according to Chapman, since the crime of pregnancy termination would have to be committed against a woman’s wishes. Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines and the other Democrats in the Senate voted “no” on the bill.

“This bill could prevent Iowans from starting a family using in vitro fertilization and surrogacy that relies on IVF practices,” Petersen said. “There are no safeguards with this legislation that would protect common forms of family planning, including IUDs and birth control pills.”

Chapman said he “takes exception” to the idea women using medical procedures to try to get pregnant could be charged.

“I think it’s important to recognize that a crime triggers this penalty,” Chapman said.

Sen. Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, emphasized that the bill sets up a life sentence for those who cause a miscarriage.

“Even when they don’t know or have any reason to know the woman is pregnant,” Hogg said. “I don’t think that is good criminal law.”

Petersen said the bill was an attempt to establish “personhood” for a fetus, “which is quite extreme and unconstitutional.”

Chapman called the bill “an affirmation.”

“Finally we have a bill that recognizes the dignity and the rights of that human child in the womb,” Chapman said, “the same as the human life that’s carrying that child.”

The bill now goes to the Republican-led House for consideration.