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Capitol Digest

Capitol Digest

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The Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

A roundup of legislative, state government and Capitol news items of interest:

IOWA BISHOPS BACK ABORTION AMENDMENT: The four Catholic bishops of Iowa on Wednesday expressed their support for a proposal to pass a constitutional amendment on abortion that Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds included in her Condition of State address and 2020 legislative agenda.

Revs. Michael Jackels, Archbishop of Dubuque; R. Walker Nickless, bishop of Sioux City; Thomas Zinkula, bishop of Davenport; and William Joensen, bishop of Des Moines; issued a joint statement through the Iowa Catholic Conference — the public policy agency of the Catholic Church in Iowa.

“We support an Iowa constitutional amendment to clarify that a right to abortion is not guaranteed by the state of Iowa Constitution,” the bishops said in their joint statement. “The Iowa Supreme Court, in a June 2018 decision, struck down the law requiring a three-day waiting period before an abortion is performed. In pursuit of that decision, the court claimed that the Iowa Constitution provided for a fundamental right to abortion. Such a claim is groundless, given that for 115 years the same state of Iowa Constitution served as the basis for a legislative ban on abortion except to save the life of a mother.”

A Senate subcommittee is slated to take up the proposed constitutional amendment during a Statehouse meeting Thursday.

In supporting the measure, the bishops said “this is a question of the common good. We can help pregnant women in need, the men who fathered those children, and families in distress without recourse to the violence of abortion.”

ATHEISTS OPPOSE ABORTION AMENDMENT: An organization of Iowans that defends civil rights for atheists, freethinkers and other nonbelievers issued a statement Wednesday critical of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ call for a constitutional amendment on abortion in her Condition of the State address.

American Atheists Iowa director Justin Scott said the governor’s message was that “government knows better than the women of Iowa when it comes to their reproductive care” in seeking a constitutional amendment banning abortion in the state.

“The vast majority of Iowans support a woman being trusted to make the best medical decisions for herself, and the Supreme Court has upheld time and time again that abortion is legal in our country,” Scott said, calling the proposal to take away safe, legal abortion “draconian and dangerous.”

He added that the governor’s position “is not leadership, it’s Christian nationalism and religious zealotry masked as governance.”

WATERFOWL SOIREE RESCHEDULED: Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation say they have had to reschedule Saturday’s Trumpeter Swan Soiree until Feb. 15 due to anticipated winter weather.

The event at Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines will celebrate North America’s largest waterfowl species, according to DNR officials.

Programs will be given both indoors and outdoors at the Walnut Woods State Park lodge with concurrent outdoor viewing and interpretive presentations of trumpeter swans and wildlife. Officials say spotting scopes and binoculars will be provided.

An estimated 120 trumpeter swans are wintering at the Dale Maffitt Reservoir and surrounding area southwest of Des Moines — providing a rare opportunity to view good numbers of free flying trumpeter swans.

HEALTH CARE STATEHOUSE RALLY: Iowans and state lawmakers plan to hold a health care rally Thursday at the Statehouse.

Advocates, people with preexisting conditions and Democratic legislators will speak about efforts during the upcoming legislative session to create legal protections in Iowa for people with preexisting conditions.

Organizers say the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month in favor of a lawsuit they fear could dismantle the Affordable Care Act and deliver “a devastating blow to Iowans, particularly the nearly 1.3 million in our state who could lose their access to quality, affordable health insurance” if their health care is overturned. The noon rally will focus on supporting legislation that keeps health care protections in place.

— Des Moines Bureau

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