By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
This week is Catholic Schools Week and the Iowa bishops have released a statement in support of Education Savings Accounts. ESAs would allow parents who choose not to enroll their children in a public school to receive a deposit of public funds into a savings account set up by the state. The money could be used for nonpublic school tuition. Drafting of an ESA bill at the legislature is underway and you will hear some more about that soon.
Legislation is just now starting to move in the Iowa General Assembly. Several bills we support have been introduced this past week, including:
• House File 58, calling for an ultrasound to be performed before an abortion
• House File 71, setting an increase in the state’s minimum wage
• House File 75, a state “Dream Act” which would set an in-state tuition rate for longer-term undocumented immigrant residents of Iowa
• Senate File 55, which would restrict funds in the Affordable Care Act from being used to pay for abortions or pay for health insurance that contains abortion coverage.
Now for the bad news. House File 65 was introduced in the Iowa House to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide (physician assisted suicide) for people who are diagnosed as being terminally ill. From the perspective of our religious faith, the Catholic Church supports the protection of human life from conception until a natural death. We believe vulnerable and sick people need assistance, not suicide.
There are many reasons to question whether legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide is good health care or good public policy. We are particularly concerned about what this would mean for seriously ill people without good support systems. It seems unlikely that the bill will get much traction in the House this year but we will watch it closely and be ready to take further action if a bill is introduced in the Iowa Senate.
There’s a YouTube video which addresses a similar assisted suicide proposal in Canada. It addresses the issue in a clear and concise way.
If you’re ready to contact your legislator now on any of the above bills, go to our Action Center at www.votervoice.net/icc/home and put in your ZIP code. You can see the text of the bills at www. legis.iowa.gov.
The feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, Feb. 8, has been designated as the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. Iowa Institute for Social Action (held earlier this month) had a well-attended breakout on the issue. We can expect positive legislation to work on during this year’s legislative session.
Shows you what we know. Last week we said the U.S. House would most likely pass “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” that would generally protect unborn children from abortion beginning at 20 weeks fetal age. Instead the House approved the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” Act, which would codify a permanent, government-wide policy against taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage. It also requires health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act to disclose the extent of their coverage for abortion and the amount of any surcharge for that coverage to consumers. The bill moves to the Senate for consideration.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, welcomed passage of the bill. In a letter to Congress, he said, “The federal government should not use its funding power to support and promote elective abortion, and should not force taxpayers to subsidize this violence. Even public officials who take a ‘pro-choice’ stand, and courts that have insisted on a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion, have agreed that the government has every right (in the Supreme Court’s words) to ‘encourage childbirth over abortion.’”
A glitch came up on the “20-week bill” where some legislators objected to a requirement that a woman would report an allegation of rape to the authorities before being eligible to have an abortion under the rape exception in the bill.
Finally, hundreds of Iowans gathered earlier this month for the Mass for Life at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines, the Midwest March for Life at the state capitol and the Iowa Institute for Social Action. Other similar events have been taking place in different parts of the state. Check out our Facebook page for some photos, and look to your local Catholic newspaper for stories. We had the largest attendance we have had for quite some time at the institute.
(Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)