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Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter, March 26, 2023

Seven items from the last seven days at the State Capitol:

House File 349 was passed by the House last week on a vote of 93-1. Supported by the ICC, the bill would provide “earned time” credits for the completion of activities such as education, vocational training and work for individuals on probation. The next step is to get the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee before Friday.

Senate File 326 was passed by a House subcommittee. The bill makes it possible for pharmacists to provide hormonal contraceptives without a prescription. While opposing the provision, we are also encouraging an amendment for safety reasons to make sure there is a physician visit somewhere along the line for women receiving the drugs.

A House subcommittee returned House Study Bill 227 to the Ways and Means Committee without recommendation. This is a good sign. The ICC opposes House Study Bill 227, which would legalize online and app gambling with real money. A greater number of families would be damaged due to an easier path to a gambling addiction.

Disappointingly, ICC staff has heard that Senate File 297 will most likely not be brought up for debate this year. It would protect health care providers’ ability to refuse to perform a medical treatment, if the provider regards the treatment as being harmful to a patient.

Senate File 494 passed the Senate by a vote of 34-16. The bill requires the state to establish a new asset test and income/identity verification system for public benefits. One item of concern is the bill’s maximum of 10 days to respond to the state about an income discrepancy that disqualifies a person. The House version, House File 613, doesn’t include the 10-day limit.

The creation of a new verification system is not necessarily problematic. Only those who qualify should receive benefits. But we question why SF 494 is necessary. There are fewer people on food stamps in Iowa today than before the pandemic. The error rate for benefits being overpaid or underpaid in Iowa has improved. The Legislative Services Agency estimates that 1% of recipients will lose benefits due to the bill. They also project it will take 230 HHS staff to administer the new process.

The governor’s bill on parents’ rights in education, SF 496, was passed in the Senate by a vote of 34-16. It includes a prohibition on instruction regarding gender identity in grades K - 6 and requires a school to notify parents about a child’s desire to change their gender identity. The bill also includes language supporting parents' rights to make decisions affecting their minor child related to medical care, moral upbringing, religious upbringing, residence, education, and extracurricular activities.

The governor signed Senate File 538, which prohibits "gender transition” treatments for minors. The ICC supported the bill.

Mark your calendars

The 10th annual celebration of Religious Freedom Day in Iowa includes a symposium on Thursday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will be held at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines. The event is free of charge. Click here for more information on speakers and to register.

Save the date for Saturday, June 24. The Iowa March for Life will take place at the State Capitol in the early afternoon. More details to come.

U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee issues guidance to Catholic hospitals

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine issued a statement providing moral criteria to Catholic health care institutions for discerning which medical interventions promote the authentic good of the human person.

In its statement, the doctrine committee acknowledges that technology offers chemical, surgical, and genetic interventions for the functioning of the human body, as well as for modifying its appearance. However, the committee says interventions for gender dysphoria “do not respect the fundamental order of the human person as an intrinsic unity of body and soul, with a body that is sexually differentiated,” and the committee states that Catholic health care services must not perform them.

The statement adds that “particular care should be taken to protect children and adolescents, who are still maturing and who are not capable of providing informed consent.” The committee’s full statement may be read here.


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