By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
House File 573, a bill designed to protect unborn babies, passed the Iowa House and has moved to the Senate.
The bill would require that prior to performing an abortion a physician must certify that the woman has undergone an ultrasound imaging of the baby and that the woman was given the opportunity to view the ultrasound image. This bill is part of a truly informed consent process for women and would reduce the number of abortions. It also penalizes physicians who don’t provide an ultrasound, which is part of the current standard of care in these situations. The Iowa Catholic Conference is working to encourage Senators to advance the legislation this week.
Bills of interest that the Senate passed
Senate File 375 requires an employer 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, benefits and protections for the first year of the adoption. The bill moves to the House.
Senate File 450, regarding human trafficking, would require the state to conduct outreach programs to help the public recognize and report incidents of human trafficking and require training for law enforcement. The bill also makes human trafficking a forcible felony.
Senate File 460. The bill would provide employees with an option not to be paid by a debit card. State law has not specifically regulated the growing use of debit cards for payment of wages. Some employees have found it difficult and more costly to check a balance and compare hours worked to pay. The bill goes to the House.
Senate File 334 passed the Senate 26-24 last week. The intent of the bill is to outlaw sexual orientation “conversion therapy” for minors. The ICC is concerned that the bill’s scope goes beyond the intent of the bill and could prohibit speech regarding what the church teaches about human sexuality and counseling young people to refrain from sexual activity. The bill moves to the Iowa House.
Senate File 448 revises the law regarding the sentencing of juveniles. While allowing for a more individualized determination of sentences, the bill would still permit a life sentence without parole for juveniles. The ICC opposes that provision. Juveniles should not be treated as if they were equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development. Their culpability may be lessened. Life without parole does not allow for the possibility that the person who committed the crime could be able to rejoin society under some conditions. SF 448 now goes to the House.
Senate File 447 extends deadlines to file a lawsuit regarding childhood sexual abuse against perpetrators and institutions. Sexual abuse is a horrible crime and has caused grievous harm to victims. Sadly, sexual abuse is not uncommon in our society, and the Catholic Church has had to learn some painful lessons of its own over the years. The church has taken responsibility for failing victims in the past and has not opposed a reasonable extension of deadlines going forward to file a lawsuit. The bill goes to the House.
Iowa’s current law allows for victims to file a lawsuit against perpetrators and institutions for four years after they discover the injury caused by sexual abuse. This discovery can be many years later.
The ICC continues to support Senate File 369, which would provide about $2.2 million in grants for organizations to train refugees to educate and provide direct assistance to their respective refugee communities.
House File 604 passed the House Ways and Means Committee last week. The bill provides for an alternative income tax system in Iowa with a 5 percent flat rate on all taxable income. The taxpayer who elects this alternative will not be able to claim any refundable or nonrefundable credits allowed in the current system. Proponents of the bill say this would return to Iowa taxpayers (and cut state revenues) about $521 million.
Church teaching leads to a few concerns about HF 604:
• Impact on state revenues that could affect services for the poor and vulnerable, as well as education funding for public and nonpublic schools.
• Ensuring that people contribute according to his or her ability to pay. It’s generally accepted by moral theologians that a regressive system, like as a flat rate, is the least just because the poor end up paying a higher proportion of their income. A mitigating factor in HF 604 is that it increases the standard deduction for those who elect the 5 percent rate and protects a greater amount of income from taxation.
• Effects from the loss of refundable tax credits for donors to charitable programs such as School Tuition Organizations fundraising.
(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)