Senator blocks House bill over concerns of its impact on IVF

DES MOINES — A Republican senator is using his authority to block consideration of a bill that critics say could make in vitro fertilization illegal in Iowa.

Under current law, there are criminal penalties for terminating a human pregnancy without consent. A bill approved by the House last Thursday increases those penalties, but for the crime of “causing the death of an unborn person” without consent. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Zaun of Urbandale refused to bring the bill up for a vote in his committee.

“There was some definite concerns about in vitro fertilization and the negative effects and unintended consequences with that and that was very problematic for myself,” Zaun said, “and so that’s why I pulled the bill.”

Zaun blocked consideration of another bill that would create a new crime of “human smuggling” of undocumented immigrants, with a possible 10 year prison sentence for a conviction. House Republicans passed the bill last Thursday, saying it’s needed to give Iowa law enforcement authority to arrest those they suspect of illegally transporting migrants into Iowa.

“In the language, it was my interpretation as well as some of the people on the committee that there was some unintended consequences,” Zaun said.

Relatives and religious organizations providing assistance to asylum seekers had urged senators to defeat the bill, arguing they could be arrested for driving someone to school or work. Zaun said the bill needed work and his committee didn’t have time to make adjustments.

“The House has passed over 250 bills and we have passed only 43 I have heard,” Zaun told reporters. “The workload, obviously the volume is obviously quite a bit coming from the House and I probably shouldn’t even say this, but it is frustrating to me that we get these bills with a one-day, two-day (turn around), with the expectation that we keep it alive.”

Friday is the deadline for policy bills like this one to have passed the House and cleared a Senatte committee. The deadline works in reverse, too, and a couple of Senate passed bills have failed to make it out of House committees this week. That includes the Senate bill that would have penalized Iowa businesses that fail to use the federal E-Verify system to check if employees are citizens or legal residents of the United States.