New personhood bill offered in Senate

Baby 1By Bob Eschliman


A group of eight Republicans in the Iowa Senate introduced a bill last Thursday that would redefine “person” in the context of the crime of murder. This new “personhood bill” would have the effect of making abortion a crime in Iowa.

The new definition of “person” under Senate File 478 would be “an individual human being without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when the zygote is formed, until natural death. It further provides that murder includes killing another person through any means that terminates the life of the other person including but not limited to the use of abortion-inducing drugs, which it also defines.

SF 478 also makes conforming changes throughout Iowa Code to eliminate any reference to allowing abortions or terminations of pregnancy in keeping with the definition of “murder” under the bill. These include:

  • amending the termination of pregnancy reporting requirements of Iowa Code 144.29A to only include the reporting of spontaneous terminations of pregnancy,
  • amending the unfair employment practices provisions of Iowa Code 216.6 to eliminate references to disabilities caused or contributed to by legal abortion, and
  • amending the discrimination provisions of Iowa Code 216.13 relating to health insurance abortion coverage.

“The bill strikes and repeals Code provisions that relate to allowing abortions under certain circumstances,” the bill’s explanatory statement says. “The bill repeals Code section 232.5 (abortion performed on a minor — waiver of notification proceedings), Code section 702.20 (the definition of ‘viability’), Code section 707.7 (feticide), Code section 707.8 (nonconsensual termination — serious injury to a human pregnancy), Code section 707.8A (partial birth abortion), Code section 707.9 (murder of a fetus aborted alive), Code section 707.10 (duty to preserve the life of the fetus), Code chapter 135L (notification requirements regarding pregnant minors), and Code chapter 146 (abortions — refusal to perform). The bill also makes conforming changes to strike references to Code provisions stricken or repealed in the bill.”

SF 478 also includes a “severability” provision. Severability means that if any portion of the bill is deemed invalid, the remaining provisions are not affected. If adopted by both chambers and signed into law by Gov. Branstad, the provisions of the bill would go into effect upon the governor’s signature.

The proposed legislation is sponsored by state Sens. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig), Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City), Bill Anderson (R-Pierson), Jerry Behn (R-Boone), Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), Mark Segebart (R-Vail), Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton), and Randy Feenstra (R-Hull). There have been no lobbyist declarations on the bill, yet.