Iowa Senate Passes Bill Defining ‘Personhood,’ Setting Up New Abortion Battle


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DES MOINES, Iowa – The Republican-led Iowa Senate has passed a measure that would define personhood in the state, setting up another battle over abortion rights.

Tuesday, during debate on HF523 – a bill increasing penalties for fetal homicide – Republican senator Jake Chapman added language that replaced “human pregnancy” with “unborn person.” Chapman’s amendment went on to define “unborn person” as “an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization to live birth.”

The amended bill passed 31-18.

Iowa Planned Parenthood’s Executive Director Erin Davison-Rippey issued a statement Tuesday night following the Senate’s action. It reads, in part, “This is a troubling attempt to insert extreme and unpopular ‘personhood’ language into Iowa law. It sends Iowa down a dangerous path by defining a fertilized egg as a person and lays the foundation to ban abortion in the future. These changes would have far-reaching, unintended consequences, including outlawing certain forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization. A woman’s decisions about pregnancy must be made between her and her doctor, without political interference.”

The measure is being seen as another attempt by Republicans to ban abortion in the state, as it would define personhood as beginning when an egg is fertilized.

In January, a district judge struck down the fetal heartbeat bill that banned all abortions after a heartbeat could be detected. The judge ruled the law was a violation of Iowa’s constitution.

In June of 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court voted 5-2 that a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion violated a woman’s constitutional rights.

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