April 22, 2024

Opinion: Protecting IVF & reproductive freedom

By Iowa House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst

Recently in the House, Representative Heather Matson of Ankeny bravely told her story of struggling with infertility and using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to become a mom. She knows personally how critical it is to protect this option for Iowans who want desperately to become a parent, and she’s concerned about legislation that passed the Iowa House this week.

The controversial bill, which is making national headlines, would make changes to how Iowa law defines a “person.” In this case, anyone causing death or injuries to an “unborn person” — defined in the bill to begin from the moment of fertilization — could be jailed for life, without the possibility of parole.

While a word change seems simple, doctors and legal experts are weighing in because the bill is so broadly written, it could have wide-ranging consequences, including a halt on fertility treatments like IVF and some forms of birth control.

The concern comes on the heels of a court ruling on a similar law in Alabama. In the court ruling just a few weeks ago, the Alabama Supreme Court essentially concluded that every fertilized egg frozen in an IVF lab was a person. The ruling immediately paused IVF treatments for some families while creating chaos for other families, providers, and fertility clinics.

House Democrats continue to work to protect IVF — and we understand the consequences if we don’t. As Rep. Matson questioned, “What can we realistically expect of doctors when it comes to the practice of modern fertility treatments with the court ruling in Alabama and a bill that changes Iowa Code from ‘human pregnancy’ to ‘unborn person’? What a tragedy it would be for all Iowans if what has come to pass in Alabama comes to pass here because, as written, this bill does not explicitly protect IVF.”

Instead of listening to colleagues like Rep. Matson about the potential consequences of the bill, the GOP lawmaker running the bill here in Iowa just dismissed every legitimate question brought up by anyone else. He wasn’t willing to even acknowledge — let alone work together - that the poorly written bill could be improved.

It’s why Iowans are so frustrated with politics these days.

It’s no secret the special interest groups that want to ban all abortion and take away more reproductive freedom from Iowans are among the most powerful at the State Capitol. They’ve gotten many bills passed over the last several years to roll back reproductive rights with the centerpiece of their agenda — a near total abortion ban — on hold as it’s reviewed by the Iowa Supreme Court. They will stop at nothing to ban all abortion, even if it means Iowans trying to start a family with IVF get caught in the crosshairs.

The truth is that a strong majority of Iowans want lawmakers to protect reproductive freedom, not destroy it. They believe everyone deserves the right to make their own health care decisions and politicians have no place interfering in someone else’s decisions about when to start a family.

I couldn’t agree more. Until GOP lawmakers can answer some basic questions and prove it won’t impact IVF or birth control, I think the bill should be shelved.

The one bit of good news is the bill has yet to be approved by the Iowa Senate and time is running short. Iowans who support reproductive freedom should let their Senator know where they stand before it’s too late.

There’s still time to put people over politics.

State Representative Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights serves the 32nd District in the Iowa House and is the Iowa House Democratic Leader