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HF2256 — a bill that would have recognized the equal rights and protections of the preborn — has caused quite a stir in Iowa. While the bill was killed in committee by Rep. Holt by means of not giving it a subcommittee, it certainly stirred up lots of comments from the pro-life establishment and even Rep. Holt himself. The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition went so far as to make a turncoat decision, going from registering in favor of the bill to against the bill officially. What was all the fuss about? It was about whether the woman who terminates her child in the womb should be considered culpable in the murder of a preborn child.

To me, this seems pretty straightforward: if we are going to consider a preborn child human, then they ought to have their human rights recognized, and life is certainly a foundational and self-evident right. Now, if a preborn human is not actually a human, then there is a legal argument that they should not be protected or have their rights recognized under the law. Yet Pulse Life Advocates, Valor Iowa, Iowa Right to Life, Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, and Iowa Catholic Conference all withdrew their support for the bill after they finally took the time to read it, or at least after they saw Rep. Holt’s “Freedom Watch” update where he sounded the alarm on this and said, “No credible person in the pro-life community believes this is acceptable.”

Now perhaps I am not credible in the pro-life community, but I have preached dozens of sermons on the issue of life, spent many hours outside of Planned Parenthoods in all kinds of conditions (they still murder babies when it is negative thirty outside), done extensive writing on life through dozens of articles and even a book, spent several hours on the radio across the state of Iowa and Nebraska on life, and of course, have been a foster care and adoptive parent. While I dont find it pleasant to write a list of accomplishments”, for many it is necessary to establish credibility when a State House Representative makes a flippant statement to the contrary. I supported HF2256 unashamedly and would do the same if it is filed again.

What is the reasoning that was given for the double-minded view of saying that life begins at conception, but I cant support a bill of equal protection? It is that the woman who would murder her child is a victim. That was the repeated claim by entities like Iowa Baptists for Biblical Values and Pulse Life Iowa. Of course, this sentiment was also repeatedly brought up by Rep. Steve Holt as well.

Would HF2256 actually criminalize victims? This is a worthy question to ask, after all, the nature of justice is to protect victims and punish perpetrators, and every law ought to reflect that.

So, what is a victim?

According to “The Law Dictionary”  a victim is: a person harmed by criminal acts, attack target.

Cornell Law School defines a victim as: Crime victim or victim of crime means a person who has suffered physical, sexual, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime.

Most relevant to our conversation Iowa code defines a victim this way: Victim” means a person who has suffered physical, emotional, or financial harm as the result of a public offense or a delinquent act, other than a simple misdemeanor, committed in this state.

With these definitions in mind, would HF2256 set a precedent of seeking to prosecute victims? Not in any legal sense. HF2256 actually takes great precautions against prosecuting victims.

An act, other than an act by which one intentionally or recklessly causes physical injury to another, is not a public offense if the person so acting, including a pregnant woman acting relative to her unborn child under chapter 707 or 708, is compelled to do so by another’s threat or menace of serious injury, provided that the person reasonably believes that such injury is imminent and can be averted only by the person doing such act.

Clearly, in the event that a woman is a victim — as defined legally — she would be protected under HF2256. I would go as far as to say that this is the point of HF2256, that the preborn are being given equal protection under the law as a post-born person would have. This bill was in no way taking away a right or a protection from mothers; it was simply stating that we must treat the preborn the same as everyone else under the law. If a mother would be charged with murder for poisoning her 5-year-old, then a mother should be charged with murder if she poisons her child in the womb.

Now, the retort towards this line of thinking (some would call it logic) is, while not all women are legal victims, they are victims of the culture.” If this is the true reasoning why these organizations decided not to support and, in some cases, oppose HF2256, then I think it is time to ask if it is appropriate to rip a word out of its objective context and weaponize it against any bill?

Think about it for a moment: HF2256 goes out of its way to make sure it is clear that a legal victim is not going to be subject to prosecution, and its entire premise is that the preborn should have the same protections against being victimized as everyone else. If HF2256 were designed to punish legal victims, it would be self-defeating.

Of course, it is inappropriate or wildly flippant at best to weaponize the emotionally charged word victim” against its legal definition. A proposed law by nature must speak towards the legal definitions that are provided. This is why our code spends so much time on defining words and why proposed laws spend time doing this as well.

A wicked culture can and often does have an impact upon the people within the culture, but this doesn’t absolve someone of a crime they have committed or place them in the victim status legally. Words have meanings and we must be careful not to twist these words, especially when we are railing accusations against proposed legislation.

Unfortunately, HF2256 died without a subcommittee due to flippant accusations from Rep. Holt and the organizations that are known as pro-life. Was this a simple but costly oversight, or was this more nefarious political gamesmanship? Im not sure we can know the answer to this yet, but one thing is for certain: HF2256 and other bills of equal protection do not punish victims of abortion; they protect the victims of abortion by establishing equal protection and by opposing special murder privileges.

Author: Sam Jones

Pastor Sam completed an intense pastoral internship at Hagerman Baptist Church and served as a chaplain at Heritage Care Center in Iowa Falls, Iowa before accepting the call to pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Hudson, Iowa. He loves people and his goal is to make disciples of Christ by personally, prayerfully, and persistently investing the Word of God into others.


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