An open letter to Iowa GOP lawmakers and Governor Reynolds

Bleeding Heartland user “Bill from White Plains” reviews what some Republican politicians said and did in connection with the proposed state constitutional amendment regarding abortion. -promoted by Laura Belin

March 3 was Planned Parenthood Day on the Hill, and I am sure many of you have been inundated with the genuine and sincere entreaties of friends and fellow members of Planned Parenthood and NARAL to reject the ill-conceived, ill-advised, unrepresentative bills you are herding toward passage regarding restrictions on procedures to terminate pregnancy.

I agree with all of them, and I know that you know these are real constituents with real concerns about private matters that most of you have never experienced, nor will ever experience.

I write today regarding your consideration of the constitutional amendment on abortion, which Republicans have approved in the Iowa Senate and will attempt to pass in the House.

Please explain your motivation in proposing it, bearing in mind the “conservative principles” on which you profess to stand. You say you stand for reducing the size and scope of government. You say you stand for the right of the people to chart their own destinies, free of government restraint. You say you stand for individual, “God-given, rights.” And of course, some of you even invoke Christianity, and maintain that you’ve read the Bible cover-to-cover and it compels you to fight for the rights of the unborn child.

Indeed, State Senator Julian Garrett has been quoted as saying, “You can read the Iowa Constitution a hundred times, and you’ll never find the word ‘abortion.’ It’s not there. And our Supreme Court made the decision and declared, just declared there is a fundamental right to an abortion in the Iowa Constitution.”

Approaching these arguments, in reverse order, we will conclude that none of this is consistent or honest, and what you call “rights” that are being “declared” or “imposed” or “created” by the Iowa Supreme Court are quite the opposite. Let us now walk through the analysis.

The First Reading from the Catholic three-year cycle for the First Sunday of Lent (March 1, 2020, this past weekend) began like this:

A reading from the Book of Genesis. “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.”

For those of you who say you are “pro-life” because you are “Christian” and have “read the whole Bible,” cover-to-cover: yes, you are pro-life. Maybe you have some faith tradition loosely referred to as “Christian.” But I’m sorry, no, you haven’t read your Bible cover-to-cover, because we’re talking (without footnotes) about the first page of your Bible, first book (Genesis), second chapter, seventh section.

Nothing in that reading mentions man becoming a living being at 12 weeks. Nothing in that reading says that man became a living being because he had lungs. Nothing in that reading references man becoming a living being because he had a heartbeat. Nothing in that reading asserts man became a living being because he possessed the potential to breathe, because he had a brain stem, or because he had buds for arms and legs.

What it declares is, man, fully formed, still was not a living being until he inhaled his first breath, which was provided by The Almighty. To paraphrase then-President-elect Donald Trump, “Two Genesis, right? – it’s the whole ballgame!”

So, no, your being a Christian doesn’t compel the constitutional amendment that you propose, let alone explain your political position. Nor does your Bible give you any ideological or transcendental or celestial magisterium for support.

You are lying. And, your Bible does talk about lying. You have to go a bit further in, to what, in most Christian Bibles, is the second book, called Exodus, and you have to go to the 20th chapter, seventh section to find the commandment against bearing false witness.

Don’t lie to me. It insults my intelligence and demonstrates both your ignorance, and your arrogance in your ignorance.

Which brings me to Mr. Garrett, who has a law degree, and who claims not only to have read the Iowa constitution, but to have read it in search of the word “abortion.” No, he didn’t read it. But I’ll indulge him and inquire where, in the Iowa constitution, he can direct me to words like “gun” or “ammunition” or “magazine.”

Yet the folks who seek to amend the Iowa constitution to ban abortion, Senator Garrett among them, will tell you with a straight face that that the “right” to own and possess, and use for self defense, a “gun” with “ammunition,” perhaps even several pellets of ammunition accumulated in a “magazine” is “enshrined” in the constitution and, that “right” is, “God-given.” 

What chapter of what Bible “enshrines” the “right” to bring a gun into a classroom or a courthouse, or a mall? Where do you find any mention of God telling you that?

Don’t lie to me, Mr. or Miss or Ms. or Non-Gender or Gender Fluid legislator. Neither your Bible (assuming that you even own one) nor the Iowa constitution – regardless of how you bastardize or pervert the language in either of them – gets you to enshrinement, let alone Holy Orders.

But I digress.

Senator Garrett has been quoted as saying that the Iowa Supreme Court “just declared … a fundamental right to an abortion.” His colleague, a fellow non-literati when it comes to constitutional law, Senator Jake Chapman, was quoted in the same February 13 Des Moines Register article as saying, “Because the courts made this new fundamental right, heaven forbid Republicans are taking the right away. No, we’re restoring the right of the people to govern themselves.”

Senators Garrett and Chapman, the Iowa Supreme Court made no “new fundamental right,” and no, this constitutional amendment that you are promoting does not “restore” the right of anybody to govern themselves. In point of fact, the amendment is a second bite at the self-governing apple; another attempt to restrict the peoples’ right to self-govern.

Don’t lie to me.

The two senators are talking about the June 2018 Iowa Supreme Court case titled, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Kimberly K. Reynolds, which held nothing more than that the right of privacy is fundamental, based on the legal concept of personal liberty. Specifically, on page 57, the court wrote:

The identified right to “privacy” was not an entitlement to secrecy, but rather the recognition that the government is ill-equipped to intervene in decisions of such personal magnitude as whether to procreate and assume the responsibilities of parenthood.

Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free. At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world. Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty. We therefore hold, under the Iowa Constitution, that implicit in the concept of ordered liberty is the ability to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy.

What is so offensive, coming from Mr. Garrett, who is a colleague of mine in the practice of law, is the idea that the Iowa Supreme Court “created” a right, or even has the power to “create” a right. It didn’t, and it doesn’t. 

Regarding Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Kimberly K. Reynolds, the Iowa legislature passed a bill that would have imposed a government limitation – a restriction – on the time before which an Iowan with a female anatomy could have an abortion. The governor, whose legal background amounts to having been a file clerk in a small county, signed the bill into law.

In so doing, the legislative and executive branches of the Iowa government created a constitutional question, specifically, as the court wrote on page 3 of the ruling, whether “the constitutional right of women to choose to terminate a pregnancy is unreasonably restricted by a statute that prohibits the exercise of the right for a period of seventy-two hours after going to a doctor.”

To paraphrase Senator Garrett, “you can read that sentence a hundred times, and nowhere will you find the creation of a fundamental right to an abortion.”

The artificial branding of an Iowa Supreme Court opinion as “creating a new right” is not new to Senator Garrett or to his ideological champions from radical fundamentalist associations, which shall go unnamed here.

One need only recall their false pronouncement, following the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v. Brien, to the effect, the Iowa Supreme Court had “created” the right to gay marriage.

It didn’t. And you knew that when you said otherwise.

The situation in Varnum began when the Iowa legislature passed legislation and the governor signed into law, Iowa Code § 595.2(1) and Iowa code § 595.2(2) modified, to restrict marriage, limiting it to one man and one woman.

Up to that point in 1998, nothing in Iowa law specifically prevented gay couples from marrying. The Iowa marriage statute allowed people to marry so long as they qualified age-wise, or with parental consent, and so long as they weren’t too closely related, and so long as they, at least, had the mental capacity to enter into a contract, and they waited three days from the date they submitted their marriage application to the county registrar. That was it. Nothing about the gender of the marrying parties had ever before been codified into the Iowa marriage law.

When the legislature imposed the gender restriction (the idea for which, and the language of which, was provided to the legislature by some outside fundamentalist entity) into the statute, and Governor Terry Branstad signed that restriction into law to prevent the inevitability of gay marriage, that modification was challenged. The legal challenge was the constitutional question, whether the law ran afoul of the equal protection clause of Article I, sections 1 and 2 of the Iowa constitution. The court wrote, at page 16, that “[t]he primary constitutional principle at the heart of this case is the doctrine of equal protection.”

In point of fact, what happened with respect to both Varnum v. Brien and Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds was, the legislature and the governor, together, attempted to restrict a constitutional right (due process and/or equal protection), for which American courts have applied analytical frameworks for two centuries, and the legislature and governor did so out of sheer ignorance of the law, compelled by out-of-state conservative think tanks and contempt for Iowans.

Stated another way, all those two rulings did was return the constitutional rights that had always existed prior to the interference of the Iowa government. In both cases, no “new rights” were created by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Don’t lie to me.

You insult the intelligence of all of the Iowans whom you feign to represent when you misstate the facts and misrepresent the legal process, but more than that, when you fail to own up to your own poor judgment in trying to limit Iowans’ rights, and in so doing, you fail to acknowledge the ignorance and childish peer pressure that compelled you to invade your constituents’ privacy. Your refusal to just come out and admit that all you were really doing was presenting bills and constitutional amendments that you did not understand, which were written by somebody other than you, and that that was why you could never explain why you were pushing the legislation along, or the point of the exercise, is what is so debasing — to the people of Iowa, and to you, yourselves.

You are not doing the will of the people Sure, you may be expressing the will of a small and vocal segment of the people, but you are expressing it after the fact. You present it, and a few folks express a favorable opinion. But, you know that you don’t write these things. And you know that Iowans don’t write these things. You know the truth: that you are nothing more than glorified water carriers for out-of-state lobbyists representing the will of ideologues from elsewhere who give you these things, pre-written, then leave you to pass them, then try to justify them.

Let’s face it, because you know this much to be true: you are really bad at explaining other peoples’ work product, because you don’t know what they were thinking when they wrote what they wrote. Though you parrot their talking points, they never square with the questions you are asked. This is why you are so secretive and stingy when it comes to public hearings. Even the few Iowans who come around to supporting these pieces of legislation have to suspend their own disbelief in order to go along with your scant accounts–because they need you to lie to them so that they can feel better about their individual biases and feelings of inadequacy, their self-loathing and jealousy.

This leads us back to your claim of promoting small, efficient government, your mantra that government is too big, too wasteful (read: “too expensive”) and far too intrusive in peoples’ personal lives, already, and must be reined in.

You have spent years – not just hours, days, nights, weekends, months but, whole years – promoting every half-baked “moral” power-play contrived by not-so-clever lobbyists who have steered you wrong time and time again, and you have exhausted the limited resources of state government to do their bidding, infringing on the lives of the people who elected you and who pay taxes to support the far-flung agendas of other people.

Then you have blamed the judiciary when it has corrected these errors in judgment and prudence, reaffirming the rights Iowans always had before you got all up in their business. This reminds one of the subtitle to Stephen Colbert’s silly book, America Again: Rebecoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t.

(Incidentally, my favorite quote from this session – so far – comes from Senator Brad Zaun, who – when asked directly about his insistence on re-submitting legislation requiring a 72-hour waiting period after it was rejected by the Iowa Supreme Court – was quoted as saying, “I can file any bill that I want.”

Perhaps, Senator Zaun, but you wasted a whole lot of time, legislative and judicial resources, and you were wrong the first time. Now, you seek a re-do? This is the antithesis of fiscal responsibility and legislative restraint.

Don’t lie to me, Senator Zaun.

You, the legislature and the governor, are the ones pilfering from state coffers, tilting at ideological windmills, for people who do not pay Iowa taxes. Worse than compromising your own principles though, you create the ultimate indignity to your constituencies: you pit neighbor against neighbor, fear, prejudice, judgment, class distinction, blame, guilt and humiliation between them. Every session is your exercise in interfering with peoples’ right to society among peers.

Don’t lie to me.

Having now dispensed with all of your misrepresentations, and having held a mirror to you, so that you must confront your collective lack of character, I return to my original question: what is your motivation for proposing a constitutional amendment that intrudes on the private choices of individual citizens of the State of Iowa?

Obviously, it is not small, fiscally-responsible, non-intrusive government. Just as obviously, it is not the will of the people, because neither you, nor your constituents, wrote the amendment, and none of you can explain how a constitutional amendment that attempts to explicitly remove constitutional protections for a medical procedure available to 51 percent of the population of Iowa is, in Senator Chapman’s parlance, a “restor[ation of] the right of the people to govern themselves.”

And, once again, it is not your Bible or your faith.

Don’t lie to me. Tell me the truth:

You have no idea what motivates you.

So then, each night when you return home from Capitol Hill and speak with your spouses (especially your wives, if you have wives), and your daughters, you do that knowing that you are an imposter; that you are a puppet dancing on the strings, not of the people who elected you, but of the people who paid to present you in a false light so that people would elect you.  How long before your spouses and your daughters realize what frauds you are?

Your mothers raised you better than this. They are ashamed of you. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Top image: official photos of State Senators Julian Garrett (left) and Jake Chapman (center) and Governor Kim Reynolds.

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