Iowa House OKs bill to criminalize death of an “unborn person” despite IVF concerns

Mar 7, 2024, 3:20 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republicans in Iowa’s House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would criminalize the death of an “unborn person” — over Democrats’ concerns about how it might apply to in vitro fertilization, after an Alabama court found frozen embryos can be considered children.

Iowa’s law currently outlines penalties for termination or serious injury to a “human pregnancy,” but the proposed bill would amend the language to pertain to “causing of death of, or serious injury to, an unborn person,” defined as “an individual organism … from fertilization to live birth.”

It’s one of many bills being considered by state Legislatures around the country that would expand legal and constitutional protections for embryos and fetuses, a long-time goal of the anti-abortion movement.

The bill still would need to pass the state Senate and be signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds to become law.

Referencing Alabama’s case, a Democrat in Iowa’s House proposed, but ultimately withdrew, an amendment to explicitly carve out protections for IVF, a procedure that helps some women become pregnant.

“This bill right here … puts IVF at risk whether you want to believe it or not,” said Iowa Democrat Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell. “We are now seeing the damage these laws can have on people seeking and providing reproductive health care.”

The majority ruling of Alabama’s Supreme Court treats an embryo the same as a child or gestating fetus under the state’s wrongful death law, explicitly stating “unborn children are ‘children.’” That led three major providers of IVF in Alabama to pause services because of concerns about liabilities.

Iowa Republican Rep. Skyler Wheeler said the bill is far more simple and that Democratic lawmakers are “trying to turn this into a conversation that it is not.”

The Alabama case, Wheeler said, pertains to that state’s laws and courts, not Iowa’s, and elected officials there have already moved to clarify that IVF providers are protected from liability related to the destruction of or damage to an embryo.

Wessel-Kroeschell said that exception is not well-defined in Iowa’s law, nor is it clear how Iowa or federal courts might interpret the new language, which she said enshrines “the myth of fetal personhood in our state code.”

“We simply cannot know how far this reasoning will be taken,” she said.

Earlier in the afternoon, House Republicans withdrew a bill that would require a father to pay child support starting at fertilization after Democrats pressed on the potential implications, including the possibility of a court order for risky paternity testing of a fetus.

National News

Associated Press

Arizona man sold firearms to undercover FBI agent for mass shooting, indictment says

PHOENIX (AP) — A firearms dealer in Arizona sold weapons to an undercover federal agent he believed would help him carry out his plan for a mass shooting targeting minorities, an attack that he hoped would “incite a race war,” according to a federal grand jury indictment. Mark Adams Prieto was indicted Tuesday by the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Neil Goldschmidt, former Oregon governor who confessed to sex with a minor in the 1970s, has died

Neil Goldschmidt, a former Oregon governor whose confession that he had sex with a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s blackened what had been a nearly sterling reputation, has died. He was 83. Goldschmidt died at his Portland home on Wednesday, The Oregonian reported, according to family members. The newspaper said the reported cause was heart […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged with robbing a California bank was released from prison a day earlier, prosecutors say

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A man charged with taking three people hostage while robbing a Southern California bank last month had been released from prison a day earlier, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. The 53-year-old was indicted on robbery charges after investigators said he claimed to have a gun, jumped over the teller counter and […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

South Carolina man pleads guilty in federal court to fatally shooting Virginia police officer

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A South Carolina man pleaded guilty to federal charges Wednesday in the shooting death of a police officer in southwest Virginia in 2021. Michael Donivan White, 36, of Cross, South Carolina, had already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges in state court. The federal counts include drug charges and causing the […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Democrats in Congress say federal mediators should let airline workers strike when it’s ‘necessary’

A group of 32 senators say federal mediators should speed up labor negotiations between airlines and their flight attendants and other workers, even granting them permission to go on strike “as necessary.” The lawmakers said Wednesday that airlines feel no pressure to reach contract agreements quickly because federal law makes it difficult for airline workers […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Tennessee sheriff indicted for profiting from inmate labor, misusing funds

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The sheriff of a rural Tennessee county illegally profited from the work of jail inmates under his supervision and housed dozens of them in a home outside of the prison without permission, officials said Wednesday. Gibson County Sheriff Paul Thomas was indicted in May in Gibson and Davidson counties on 22 […]

6 hours ago

Iowa House OKs bill to criminalize death of an “unborn person” despite IVF concerns