Bob Vander Plaats and FAMiLY Leader men: Pluck out thy right eye

After watching Iowa House Republicans advance an unconstitutional abortion ban, Matt Chapman has a “modest proposal.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

Toward the end of the second “funnel” week, when most non-appropriations bills must be approved by one chamber and by a committee in the other chamber to remain viable, House Republicans amended a fetal body parts bill to ban almost all abortions in Iowa after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Selling fetal body parts is not legal or happening in Iowa. That issue was merely a distraction, a vehicle to advance the true Republican agenda: taking away women’s rights to control their own bodies.

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Heartbeat bill advances where personhood failed

The Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill that would ban nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Senate Study Bill 3143 is the most extreme anti-abortion bill to clear an Iowa legislative committee in decades. Any physician terminating a pregnancy in the absence of a “medical emergency”–narrowly defined to include only life-threatening conditions–could be charged with a class D felony. All eight Republicans on the panel voted for the legislation, while all five Democrats opposed it. Committee approval on February 12 keeps the bill alive for at least another month, until the second “funnel” deadline on March 16.

Less than a year ago, Senate Judiciary Chair Brad Zaun was disappointed not to have the votes on his committee to advance a “personhood” bill, which declared that life would be protected from the moment of conception. The same eight Republicans who supported the heartbeat bill this week served on Judiciary during the 2017 session.

Which minds changed is not clear, nor is it apparent whether the bill will gain final approval in either chamber. Not every bill that comes out of committee receives a vote in the full Senate. Republican leaders blocked an effort to force a floor vote on personhood last year.

However, the shift among at least two Republicans on Judiciary suggests that GOP leaders may feel pressure to fire up the social conservative base.

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Senate rejects 20-week abortion ban despite Iowans' support

A ban on almost all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy failed to advance in the U.S. Senate on January 29, as a motion to proceed with debating the bill gained only 51 votes, short of the 60 required under Senate rules. Three Democrats (Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia) voted for cloture on the misleadingly-named Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, joining most Senate Republicans, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted no, as did most of the Democratic caucus. Two Democrats facing potentially tough re-election campaigns this year–Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri–opposed the bill.

The U.S. House approved the same legislation in October on a mostly party-line vote of 237 to 189. Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) supported the legislation, while pro-choice Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed it.

Nineteen states already ban most abortions after 20 weeks; Iowa joined their ranks in May 2017. Most terminations at that stage of pregnancy happen either because the mother has a serious health problem or because of a severe (often unsurvivable) fetal anomaly. Five women who have faced those difficult circumstances allowed Bleeding Heartland to share their stories last year.

I enclose below statements from some of the Iowans in Congress and background on the bill, which uses a faulty premise as an excuse to restrict women’s ability to make decisions about their own medical care.

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Weekend open thread: Accountability

Senator Chuck Grassley hit a new low last week in running interference for the White House on the Trump/Russia investigation. After leaders of the private research firm Fusion GPS called on Congressional Republicans “to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony” about the so-called Steele dossier, Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham wrote to the Department of Justice and the FBI “urging an investigation into Christopher Steele.” Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein was not consulted about the referral, which she accurately characterized as “another effort to deflect attention from what should be the committee’s top priority: determining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice.”

Here in Iowa, the Department of Human Services recently acknowledged that privatizing Medicaid “will save the state 80 percent less money this fiscal year than originally predicted,” Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register. The Branstad/Reynolds administration has claimed since 2015 that shifting care for one-sixth of Iowans to private companies would result in big savings for the state. Officials were never able to show the math underlying those estimates. Staff for Governor Kim Reynolds and the DHS now portray the miscalculation as an honest mistake, which a more “comprehensive methodology” will correct. The governor would have been wiser to pull the plug on this disaster last year.

Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will address those failures in more depth. But now it’s time to hold myself accountable for the 17 Iowa politics predictions I made at the beginning of 2017. Did I improve on my showing of seven right, two half-right, and seven wrong out of my 16 predictions for 2016?

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Iowa AG has joined 36 legal actions challenging Trump policies

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller signed on to three dozen multi-state actions challenging Trump administration policies last year, covering a wide range of immigration, environmental, civil rights, consumer protection and labor issues. Miller also joined fellow attorneys general in nine amicus curiae briefs related to state-level or local policies on reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, gun control, voting rights, and gerrymandering.

Although federal lawsuits aren’t the main focus of Miller’s work, Iowans can be proud our attorney general repeatedly stood for fundamental rights and core progressive values.

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