Ultrasound bill clears

By Tom Chapman
Iowa Catholic Conference

The Iowa legislature’s recent action requires that before an abortion is performed, that the woman has been given the opportunity to view an ultrasound image of the fetus as a part of the standard of care.

I am very pleased by what happened, but I would also like to give you the bigger context.

On the evening of June 3, both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate passed the final version of SF 505, the human services budget bill. The bill spends about $1.8 billion for many important human services programs including Medicaid. The language included in the Heath & Human Services Appropriations Bill (SF 505) passed the Iowa Senate, 33 to 17, and the Iowa House on a 52 to 41 vote with seven abstaining.

As you may know, the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) does not take positions for or against budget bills but works on certain issues of interest in the bills.

The initial House version of SF 505 included an amendment that would eliminate government family planning funds from going to abortion providers. In the final compromise, this provision was eliminated.

However, as a compromise, the chambers agreed to require that before an abortion is performed, that the physician will certify that the woman has been given the opportunity to view an ultrasound image of the fetus as part of the standard of care.

The Iowa Catholic Conference has been working in favor of this provision or similar ones for many years. I am very pleased by the legislature’s action and look at it as part of a truly-informed consent process for women. I think our legislative network’s messages to legislators made a difference. We are also very grateful for the way that leaders of both parties worked together on this bill.”

The ICC also had a few other items on our legislative list that turned out successfully in SF 505:

  • There is $100,000 in funding for the pilot program for refugee services. It is less than hoped for, but still a positive step forward that can be improved upon next year.
  • There is a increase in eligibility for child care assistance, from 145 FPL to 150 FPL.
  • An allocation for tax preparation help for the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income people was retained.

SF 505 now goes to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. He can line-item veto parts of the bill, although I anticipate we are fine with the ultrasound issue.

The legislative session has adjourned for the year. Here’s an update on a couple of items.

One of the last bills of the year is typically the “standings” appropriations bill. It makes adjustments to appropriations that are required by state law. The conference committee report for the standings bill, SF 510, that passed the legislature today contained status quo funding of $8.6 million for the transportation of nonpublic school students.

We were pleased to see that the final version of SF 510 included provisions we supported to fight human trafficking, including funding for training and a requirement for the state to conduct additional outreach programs to help the public and government employees recognize and report incidents of human trafficking.

Unfortunately SF 510 did not include a part of the Senate version that would have required employers to treat an employee who chooses to adopt in the same manner as an employee who is the biological parent of a newborn child for purposes of employment policies.

Also, SF 510 also did not include a House amendment for an “opt-in” for public school parents regarding information on human growth and development used in classrooms and educational conferences/seminars. The current “opt-out” in Iowa law was retained.

We were disappointed that the months-long fight between Democrats and Republicans over public school funding made it impossible for legislators to address support for nonpublic school students. I believe passage of the gas tax increase early in the session by the Republican House also took some of the wind out of their sails.

We will be meeting with Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, LS2 and the Iowa Association of Christian Schools to recap the session and fine-tune additional proposals to help parents choose the kind of education best suited to the needs of their children. Our legislative supporters are anxious to keep working.

Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference in Des Moines.

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