Senate File 523 advanced through the Iowa Senate on Tuesday. The bill relates to the nonconsensual cause of death of and serious injury to an unborn person. The amendment and the bill passed, 31-18, on party-line votes.
Senator Jake Chapman (R-Adel) said the bill makes it consistent with other murder penalties. He offered an amendment to the bill to alter the language.
“This affirms that when one kills a person in the womb that it holds the same penalty as killing someone outside the womb,” Chapman said. “Additionally what this amendment does is changes language that we’ve had in our current code regarding terminates a human pregnancy to causes the death of an unborn person. I think it’s important that we call it what it is.”
The amendment, he said, recognizes that it is a person in the womb.
“This does not relate to abortion,” he said. “This is nonconsensual. This is against a mother’s will. This is situations in which people are committing crimes, taking a life of an innocent baby, and as such should receive proper punishment.”
Senator Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) asked for a ruling on whether the amendment was germane to the bill. Senator Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) said the amendment was germane.
“What the Chapman amendment does, it turns this legislation into a personhood bill,” Petersen said. “Which is quite extreme and unconstitutional. It calls into question many things.”
She wondered how the bill would impact in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. She cautioned about mothers who lose a baby due to miscarriage or stillbirth.
Chapman said it’s necessary to realize a crime triggers the penalty.
“I take exception to that this would some how deal with IVF at all,” he said.
Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) said he was disappointed with the amendment. He took exception to the fact that people had to know or reasonably should have known that a woman in this situation was pregnant.
“The bill as amended by Sen. Chapman takes away the knowledge requirement,” Hogg said. “What we now have is a strict liability defense.”
He speculated about an 18- or 19-year-old who commits a robbery. A pregnant woman is in the presence of the robbery. The stress of the event causes a miscarriage.
“We’re now saying that that person would go to prison for life,” Hogg said. “I don’t think that’s good criminal law.”
Chapman said Hogg’s concerns could be applied to current law. Language was removed from the original bill in order to make it conform with what current law states.
“We’re increasing the penalties under the current law,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
Chapman said if someone goes out and drinks too much and drives and kills the mother, then they’re charged with a felony.
“What we’re doing is, we’re saying if you kill the baby you’re going to get the same charge,” Chapman said. “It’s not going to be a lesser charge, it’s going to be the same. Finally we have a bill that recognizes the dignity and the rights of that human child in the womb — the same as the human life that’s carrying that child.”