Please send a message to your Senator today in support of House File 573. The bill requires that prior to performing an abortion, a physician must certify that the woman has undergone an ultrasound imaging of the baby and that the woman was given the opportunity to view the ultrasound image.

Abortion is a very difficult and personal issue. It is very important that the mother have access to all relevant information that is available. This bill is part of a truly informed consent process for women and would reduce the number of abortions. It also penalizes physicians who don’t provide an ultrasound, which is part of the current standard of care in these situations.

The bill passed the Iowa House on March 12 and is now in the Senate and we are working to encourage Senators to advance the legislation this week.

We’re still working to get a minimum wage increase out of the Iowa House as well. Please send a message to your member of the Iowa House.

The Iowa Senate passed several bills of interest last week, including:

Senate File 375, which requires an employer to treat an employee who chooses to adopt in the same manner as an employee who is the biological parent of a newborn child for purposes of employment policies, benefits, and protections for the first year of the adoption. We support the bill as it moves to the House.

Senate File 450, regarding human trafficking. SF 450 would require the state to conduct outreach programs to help the public recognize and report incidents of human trafficking, as well as require training for law enforcement. The bill also makes human trafficking a forcible felony. The ICC supports the bill as it goes to the House.

Senate File 460. The bill would provide employees with an option not to be paid by a debit card. State law has not specifically regulated the growing use of debit cards for payment of wages. Some employees have found it difficult and more costly to check a balance and compare hours worked to pay. Our message to legislators is that the state should help assure that people are paid what they’re due (already state law), and can easily access the money they’ve been paid. SF 460 goes to the House.

Senate File 334, which passed the Senate 26-24 last week. The intent of the bill is to outlaw sexual orientation “conversion therapy” for minors. We are concerned that the scope of the bill goes beyond the intent of the bill and could prohibit speech regarding what the Church teaches about human sexuality and counseling young people to refrain from sexual activity. It also limits the treatment choices that parents may feel would be helpful for their children. That being said, it is unethical for a counselor to discriminate against anyone, or to try to push a goal in therapy that is destructive to the client or in opposition to his or her stated desires. The bill moves to the Iowa House.

Senate File 448, which revises the law regarding the sentencing of juveniles. SF 448, while allowing for a more individualized determination of sentences, would unfortunately still permit a life sentence without parole for juveniles. We oppose that provision. We believe juveniles should not be treated as if they were equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development. Their culpability may be lessened. Life without parole does not allow for the possibility that the person who committed the crime could be able to rejoin society under some conditions. SF 448 now goes to the House.

Senate File 447, which passed the Senate and goes to the House. The bill extends deadlines to file a lawsuit regarding childhood sexual abuse against perpetrators and institutions. Sexual abuse is a horrible crime and has caused grievous harm to victims. Sadly, sexual abuse is not uncommon in our society, and the Catholic Church has had to learn some painful lessons of its own over the years. The Church has taken responsibility for failing victims in the past, and has not opposed a reasonable extension of deadlines going forward to file a lawsuit.

We opposed the original version of the bill, which would have retroactively opened a window to bring any lawsuit, even if previously time-barred, for a period of three years. That provision has been removed from the bill.

Iowa’s current law allows for victims to file a lawsuit against perpetrators and institutions for four years after they discover the injury caused by sexual abuse. This discovery can be many years later.

Committees in the chambers were busy last week as well.

We continue to support Senate File 369, which would provide about $2.2 million in grants for organizations to train refugees to educate and provide direct assistance to their respective refugee communities. Another section of the bill would increase funding for a program to improve literacy among refugees. The bill has already passed the Senate Human Resources Committee, and last week, passed an appropriations subcommittee. Catholic Charities resettles about 300 refugees each year in Iowa. The U.S. government provides transitional assistance for only the first several weeks.

House File 604 passed the House Ways and Means Committee last week. The bill provides for an alternative income tax system in Iowa with a 5 percent flat rate on all taxable income. The taxpayer who elects this alternative will not be able to claim any refundable or nonrefundable credits allowed in the current system. Proponents of the bill say this would return to Iowa taxpayers (and cut state revenues) about $521 million.

Please take a look at the Iowa bishops’ 2003 statement on taxation for the principles the ICC is sharing with legislators. We don’t claim to be economists but we have a moral duty to speak out on matters that involve the life and dignity of the human person and the common good. Church teaching leads us to a few concerns about HF 604:

  • Impact on state revenues that could affect services for the poor and vulnerable, as well as education funding for public and nonpublic schools
  • Ensuring that people contribute according to his or her ability to pay. It’s generally accepted by moral theologians that a regressive system, like as a flat rate, is the least just because the poor end up paying a higher proportion of their income. A mitigating factor in HF 604 is that it increases the standard deduction for those who elect the five percent rate and protects a greater amount of income from taxation.
  • Effects from the loss of refundable tax credits for donors to charitable programs such as School Tuition Organizations fundraising

I am looking forward to reading the official “fiscal note” on the bill when it comes out. You’ll be able to find it on the legislature’s page for the bill.

NATIONAL CHURCH LEADERS URGE CONGRESS TO PROTECT HOUSING AND AGRICULTURE FUNDING

As it makes budget appropriations decisions, Congress should protect funding to housing and agriculture programs that serve poor and vulnerable people, said leaders of national Catholic social service providers, as well as the bishops who chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on domestic and international justice issues, in separate letters, March 19.

In letters to the leaders of the House and Senate Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president-elect of Catholic Charities USA, urged greater resources for programs that assist the elderly, people with disabilities, veterans and others to be able to afford housing.

“As Catholics, we believe that housing is a human right, and that society has a shared obligation to ensure that individuals and families have access to safe and affordable housing,” Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham wrote.

In letters to the leaders of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, Archbishop Wenski, Sister Markham, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carolyn Y. Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, defended funding to programs including international food assistance and nutrition programs to women, infants and children.

“We urge you to protect and fund programs that feed hungry people, help the most vulnerable farmers, strengthen rural communities and promote good stewardship of God’s creation,” they wrote.

AND FINALLY,

Recordings from the 2015 national Catholic Social Ministry Gathering are now available. From Feb. 7 to 10, more than 500 leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. to step forward in faith for justice and peace. Visit and share the CSMG Highlights page, where a selection of audio recordings and slides from CSMG 2015 keynote and plenary presentations are now available or coming soon.