Iowa legislature discusses abortion, school choice

By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger

We recognize that each person is created in the image and likeness of God. That’s one reason it was so disappointing in 2018 when the Iowa Supreme Court found a fundamental right to abortion in the state Constitution, making abortion difficult if not impossible to regulate by the Legislature.

As a result, the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) has been working alongside many others to correct that decision and clarify that no right to abortion can be found in the state Constitution. A proposal to amend the Iowa Constitution has already passed the Iowa House. The bill, which advanced to the Senate, is eligible for consideration by the full State Government Com­mittee. The amendment would not end abortion in Iowa as some claim.

“School choice” legislation

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The ICC continues to support expanding options for parents in the education of their children. Senate File 159, among many provisions, contains a proposal to allow a small number of public school students in so-called “failing” schools to receive a scholarship to attend a nonpublic school. The bill also contains an increase in the tuition and textbook tax credit for public and nonpublic school parents.

As the primary educators of their children, parents have the right to choose the school best suited for them. We ask legislators to provide additional help to nonpublic school parents to fulfill their responsibility in educating their children.

Thousands of parents pay to send their children to Catholic schools in Iowa. However, some parents who want their children to have that education simply can’t afford it. The ICC believes they should have that opportunity. The Catholic Church sees this as an issue of distributive justice.

“School choice” is not the silver bullet to solve all problems with education in the state. However, it gives additional parents an opportunity to help their children. We ask members of the Iowa House to expand the proposal to help some of our current students in Catholic schools. You can review and send a message to your representative here: https://www.votervoice.net/ICC/campaigns/79857/respond.

The ICC is also working in support of a bill (Senate File 168) to require the on-site provision of special education services for nonpublic school students at the location of the nonpublic school.

Other issues of interest

The ICC supports the following issues moving in the legislature:

SSB 1142 — contains housing tax credits, emergency housing assistance, and a limited eviction moratorium. Passed a subcommittee of the Senate Local Government Committee.
SSB 1121 — the Department of Agriculture policy bill contains a new matching fund program helping schools to purchase products from local farmers. Passed a Senate Agriculture subcommittee.
HF 369 — doubles the state tax credit for adoptive parents. Passed House Ways and Means Com­mittee.
HF 89 — requires health insurance companies to reimburse telehealth services at the same rate as in-person. This would be a benefit to Catholic Charities’ counseling programs.
HF 302 — establishes a graduated eligibility phase-out for state childcare assistance — to prevent the “cliff effect.” This helps address the problem when a person starts making more money and loses all child care assistance, resulting in a net loss of income. Passed House Ways and Means.
HF 318 — provides funding for preschool for young 5-year-olds.
HF 383 — provides for notification of the possibility of reversing a medication-induced elective abortion
HSB 34 — provides additional reasons to start an investigation of trafficking in humans. To be considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
HF 377 — creates a committee to review life sentences and make commutation recommendations to the governor.

The ICC opposes the following:

SF 252 — allows landlords to reject renters only on the basis of paying rent with federal “Section 8” housing voucher assistance. Passed the Senate Local Government Committee.
SSB 1125 — creates a new verification system for several public assistance programs. We believe that the target for welfare reform should be poverty itself. Putting up additional barriers for people to receive benefits — even for those who qualify – does not accomplish that goal.
HSB 121 — provides for “over the counter” access to contraception without the involvement of the woman’s doctor. Any prescription medication carries risks, which is why they require a prescription.
SF 212 — legalizes assisted suicide.
SSB 1004 — restores the death penalty.

In national news, several bishops who chair committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote to all members of Congress in support of an additional COVID-19 relief package. The bishops wrote: “We especially encourage you to consider how additional COVID relief should promote the dignity and value of all human life and protect poor and vulnerable people who are most at risk.”

The USCCB also supports the inclusion of immigrants and refugees in any relief package. An action alert for Congress on the issue is here: https://www.votervoice.net/JFI/Campaigns/80024/
Respond.

(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)


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