Bertrand’s personhood bill offered

Baby in WombBy Bob Eschliman


The long-promised personhood bill in the Iowa Senate was introduced Thursday just hours before the last opportunity to be considered by a committee. It did not pass out of committee prior to today’s funnel deadline.

In January, state Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) announced he would be introducing a bill to declare life begins at the moment of conception. His bill, Senate File 417, is called the Iowa Life at Conception Act, and defines “person” for purposes of the Iowa Criminal Code to be “an individual living human being without regard to age of development from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

The bill also states: “Each such person is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Iowa, and the laws of this state.”

SF 417 also provides some exemptions to the interpretation. It provides that elements of a crime against a person shall not be interpreted to preclude the use of medications or procedures necessary to relieve a person’s pain or discomfort if the use of the medications or procedures is not intentionally or knowingly prescribed or administered to cause the death of a person, and establishes that the following acts do not constitute a crime against a person:

  • medical treatment for life-threatening conditions, provided to a person by a physician licensed to practice medicine, which results in the accidental or unintentional injury or death of another person;
  • legitimate medical treatment for life-threatening conditions not intended to harm a person but which has the foreseeable effect of ending a person’s life, including legitimate medical treatment to preserve the life of a pregnant woman even if the foreseeable effect is harm to the fetus, as long as the person providing the medical treatment exercises that degree of professional skill, care, and diligence available to preserve the life and health of the fetus;
  • the creation of a person through in vitro fertilization; and
  • contraception administered before a clinically diagnosable pregnancy.

SF 417 also establishes that a crime against a person who has not yet been born shall only be charged against the principal actor of the criminal conduct. The bill also states its provisions are not to be interpreted “as a basis for inuring to or vesting in a child before the time of live birth or in the biological parents of a child before the time of live birth a pecuniary interest or citizenship status.”

Bertrand said in January SF 417 was meant to put every member of the General Assembly on record on the issue of personhood.

“Virtually no one would hem and haw and make excuses while they watched a child drown in the middle of a lake,” he wrote to Iowa Pro-Life Action members. “ But when it comes to fighting to end the travesty of abortion in this country – or even here in Iowa – it seems all you and I get from many politicians is a list of excuses. Well, I don’t know about you, but I believe it’s high time for the excuses to come to an end.”

Senate File 417 was introduced Thursday morning and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee did meet Thursday, but did not consider SF 417. The Senate did not convene Friday, the deadline according to General Assembly rules for bills from individual legislators to pass out of committee and still be considered for passage later in the session, which is a typical practice to allow senators to travel back to their districts.