House File 349, which would provide “earned time” credits for the completion of activities such as education, vocational training and work for individuals on probation passed in the Iowa House
on a vote of 93-1 last week. The bill, which has the support of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice for Iowa’s bishops, needs to get through the Senate Judiciary Committee before Friday, ICC Executive Director Tom Chapman said.
A House subcommittee has passed Senate File 326, a bill that makes it possible for pharmacists to provide hormonal contraceptives without a prescription. While opposing the provision, “we are also encouraging an amendment for safety reasons to make sure there is a physician visit somewhere along the line for women receiving the drugs,” Chapman said.
The ICC opposes House Study Bill 227, which would legalize online and app gambling with real money and is pleased to see that the bill has returned to the Ways and Means Committee without recommendation. The ICC believes legalizing online and app gambling with real money would damage a great number of families due to an easier path to a gambling addiction.
“Disappointingly,” Chapman said, ICC staff has heard it is not likely that Senate File 297 will be debated this year. The bill would protect health care providers’ ability to refuse to perform a medical treatment, if the provider regards the treatment as being harmful to a patient.
Senate File 494, which requires the state to establish a new asset test and income/identity verification system for public benefits, passed the Senate by a vote of 34-16. One item of concern is the bill’s maximum of 10 days to respond to the state about an income discrepancy that disqualifies a person, Chapman said. The House version, House File 613, doesn’t include the 10-day limit.
The creation of a new verification system is not necessarily problematic. Only those who qualify should receive benefits, the ICC believes. “But we question why SF 494 is necessary. There are fewer people on food stamps in Iowa today than before the pandemic. The error rate for benefits being overpaid or underpaid in Iowa has improved. The Legislative Services Agency estimates that 1% of recipients will lose benefits due to the bill. They also project it will take 230 HHS staff to administer the new process.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ bill on parents’ rights in education, SF 496, passed in the Senate by a vote of 34-16. It includes a prohibition on instruction regarding gender identity in grades K-6 and requires a school to notify parents about a child’s desire to change their gender identity. The bill also includes language supporting parents’ rights to make decisions affecting their minor child related to medical care, moral upbringing, religious upbringing, residence, education and extracurricular activities. The governor signed Senate File 538, which prohibits “gender transition” treatments for minors. The ICC supported the bill.
In other news, the 10th annual celebration of Religious Freedom Day in Iowa includes a symposium on Thursday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will be held at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines. The event is free of charge. The Iowa March for Life will take place at the State Capitol in the early afternoon of June 24. More details to come.
In national news, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine issued a statement providing moral criteria to Catholic health care institutions for discerning which medical interventions promote the authentic good of the human person.
In its statement, the doctrine committee acknowledges that technology offers chemical, surgical, and genetic interventions for the functioning of the human body, as well as for modifying its appearance. However, the committee says interventions for gender dysphoria “do not respect the fundamental order of the human person as an intrinsic unity of body and soul, with a body that is sexually differentiated,” and the committee states that Catholic health care services must not perform them (gender dysphoria interventions). The statement adds, “particular care should be taken to protect children and adolescents, who are still maturing and who are not capable of providing informed consent.”
Visit the ICC website at iowacatholicconference.org for updates, action alerts and more information.