The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa House passes bill to increase penalties for killing ‘unborn person’

Democrats warn the bill could affect in vitro fertilization treatments.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Speaker of the House, Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, looks over documents during the first day of the 2024 Iowa legislative session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. Grassley has been in the house since 2007.

Iowans could face more jail time for ending a pregnancy without consent under a bill passed on Thursday by Iowa House Republicans. Democrats caution the bill could affect in vitro fertilization treatments.

The bill, House File 2575, would increase penalties for intentionally or unintentionally ending a pregnancy without the consent of the pregnant person. Republicans say they are only increasing penalties for language already present in Iowa code, but Democrats worry that the change in the bill’s language could have broader effects.

The bill passed the Iowa House on party lines, 58-36, and now awaits Senate consideration.

The bill changes “termination” to “death” and “human pregnancy” to “unborn person” in Iowa code relating to homicide. Democrats and abortion rights activists worry the bill, which is intended to apply to assaults and attempts to cause miscarriages, could apply to medical treatments like in vitro fertilization.

The bill comes after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling allowed three couples undergoing IVF to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against their IVF clinic after an accident in the fertility clinic destroyed their frozen embryos.

Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law Thursday that protected IVF clinics from liability, allowing IVF to continue in the state after several IVF clinics paused operations after the ruling was announced.

Iowa Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, said the bill was very simple and only dealt with assaults on pregnant people — not IVF — calling Democrats’ argument “madness.”

“It increases penalties for crimes that are ridiculous: Killing a mother and or her unborn baby. You should face some pretty stiff penalties for that,” Wheeler said.

The bill increases penalties for a crime that is rarely prosecuted in the state, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

Iowa House Democrats worry that injecting language referring to fetuses as “unborn people” could yield similar results for Iowa’s health care providers.

“When the Alabama Supreme Court defined an embryo as a child, it created chaos in the legal system and stopped in vitro fertilization in Alabama,” Iowa Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said. “This bill will recreate the same chaos in Iowa, limiting the ability for Iowans to build their families and their futures.”

Wessel-Kroeschell said the battle to restore access to IVF in Alabama isn’t over yet, and “personhood” language reaches far past the section of code this bill deals with, including taxes and child support.

“We have not seen the full extent of the consequences of Alabama’s decision, but it is clear that it will have far-reaching implications for access to infertility treatment,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.

Mazie Stillwell, the director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, said there are more pressing concerns for pregnant persons across the state of Iowa.

“Iowa’s health care system has gone up in smoke and no one with power is even trying to put out the flames,” Stillwell said in a news release Thursday. “Instead, Republicans who control our state government want to continue their far-reaching, long-term strategy to undermine the rights and well-being of pregnant Iowans.”

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About the Contributors
Liam Halawith
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.