Condemnation of Iowa’s newly passed abortion law in our “me-first” culture was swift but misguided. Opponents say the so called fetal heartbeat bill removes “women’s rights to make their own healthcare decisions,” as one letter writer in the Quad-City Times wrote.
“Iowa legislative Republicans are bent on playing God with an edict that bans abortion at a point in which these politicians consider a fetus to be more preciously important than a woman who is most likely a very dear wife, mother and friend to others,” declared another letter writer.
The Quad-City Times editorial board on May 6 described the fetal heartbeat bill as “the antithesis of how Iowa loves to characterize itself. It’s nasty, it’s ill conceived…. The legislation is clearly unconstitutional based on well-established precedent.” The Times editorial may or may not be correct from a strictly legal standpoint concerning the constitutionality of the law, which prohibits abortions after an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected (about six weeks).
More alarming though, is this statement in the editorial: “It’s pointless to argue about highly subjective elements, such as when a fetus becomes a person.” But that is the point! The fetus is a person.
Catholic social teaching defends the right to life for all persons, including the unborn child. A woman’s “right to choose” involves two persons, one of whom is vulnerable and unable to make choices independently. The unborn child depends on its mother to choose life. Their life-giving relationship, breathed into existence by God, the author of life, is lost in the vitriol about a woman’s right to make choices. Being pro-life doesn’t stop with the birth of the baby. Being pro-life means making a commitment to mothers after their babies are born and supporting other life-giving measures such as social services for families living in poverty.
Pro-choice supporters dehumanize the unborn baby by referring to abortion as reproductive healthcare. Arguments that the bill “puts the healthcare of women at risk is absurd,” declares State Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, who helped lead the effort to pass the fetal heartbeat legislation. “Abortion is not healthcare. Abortion is a procedure,” she told The Catholic Messenger.
Each side in the abortion war demonizes the other, to the detriment of both the mother and her unborn child. Pro-choice supporters label pro-life supporters as ignorant, unbending and patronizing. Pro-life supporters demonize pro-choice supporters as murderers and immoral. Labels don’t change hearts!
If “death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn’t a beating heart indicate life?” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement after signing the fetal heartbeat bill into law May 4. In his own statement responding to the bill’s passage, Bishop Thomas Zinkula said that “The Catholic Church supports life from conception to natural death…. Hopefully the fetal heartbeat law will be a step in the direction of achieving our ultimate goal of recognizing and protecting in law all unborn human life.”
Pro-choice supporters vow to take legal action against the new law, and some pro-life supporters welcome the challenge. They hope to see the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that more than 40 years ago gave women the right to an abortion. Pope Francis calls us to be merciful, to love one another and to reach out to those in need. Only that approach will bring us closer to embracing life from womb to tomb.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor