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DES MOINES, Iowa, March 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Sixty-eight faith leaders who say they are Christian signed a letter of protest against a proposed Iowa law that would protect preborn children from abortion once their heartbeat is detectable.

“As faith leaders, we want to use our collective voices to stand with Iowa women in support of their constitutional right … to an abortion,” the letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register begins.  Speaking against the Iowa Heartbeat Bill, the faith leaders write supportively of a pregnant mother's “private medical decisions,” referring to her choosing abortion. 

“Most Iowans, people of faith and no faith, believe in and are standing with every woman’s right to be in control of their bodies and the healthcare decisions that impact their lives. We stand with Iowa women, too,” they state in the March 15 letter. 

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Mainline Protestant denominations led the letter in both numbers and prestige, with a female United Methodist bishop and priestesses from the Presbyterian Churches USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, American Baptist Churches USA, Reformed Church in America, Unity Church, Episcopal Church, and United Methodist Church signing the document.

A fundamental point of disagreement between Heartbeat Bill supporters and opponents is on the reasons for the legislation.  Opponents of the Heartbeat Bill, including signers of the Des Moines Register op-ed, claim that its framers have “arguments based only in religious beliefs,” meaning the sanctity of innocent human life.

Supporters say the Heartbeat Bill rests on science, specifically the biologically verifiable heartbeat and accompanying organ development in the human being.  A preborn baby's heart begins beating at 18-21 days from conception, according to standard medical documentation.  One University of Oxford study found the baby's heart beating at 16 days.

The letter from faith leaders characterizes the Heartbeat Bill as “immoral,” and an “attack” on “the constitutional right(s) of women.”  They conclude that the Heartbeat Bill “is unconstitutional and it is wrong.”

The letter further refuses to go into the issue of when life begins, which is the crux of the Heartbeat Bill supporters' scientific argument. “There is a broad spectrum of beliefs within the faith community regarding the beginning of life,” the letter states, relegating this core issue to the exclusive realm of religion and excluding it from law.  “We do not wish to debate that issue because, quite simply, our personal religious beliefs are not relevant to the legal debate.”

The letter concludes, “Another person’s theological understanding of when life begins cannot trump the rights of women.”

Besides mainline Protestant clergy, other signers include leaders of Reformed Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, and Universal Life Church (Humanist) congregations.  The Universal Life Church explains on its website that it “strive(s) to teach their ordained ministers about all the different faiths, including Buddhism.”

Earlier this month the Iowa Senate passed the “Heartbeat Bill.”  Republican Senator Jason Schultz, who served on the subcommittee which produced the legislation, noted, “Stopping a beating heart is never health care.”

List of signers:

Connie Ryan, executive director, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa 

Laurie Haller, Resident Bishop, Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church

Rev. Brigit F. Stevens, Executive Conference Minister Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences of the UCC

Rev. Mary Newbern-Williams, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Missouri River Valley

Rev. Dr. Richard Guentert, Former Regional Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest Region

The Rev. Wendy K Abrahamson, Episcopal Church, Grinnell 

Rev. Marsha Acord, United Methodist, Mount Vernon

Rev. Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, United Methodist, Des Moines

Rev. Laura Arnold, United the Church of Christ, Decorah

Dr. Beverlee Bell, United Methodist, Urbandale

Rev. Alice Bolen, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Runnells

Rev. Rev. Kenneth E. Briggs Jr., United Church of Christ, Clive

Rev. Jennifer Brooks, Unitarian Universalism, Des Moines

Rev. Candice K. Brown, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

The Rev Elaine Caldbeck, Episcopal, Bettendorf

Rev. Brian Carter, United Methodist Church, Windsor Heights

Rev. John Chaplin, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. Dick Clark, United Methodist, Urbandale

Rev. Elizabeth Colton, United Church of Christ, Oskaloosa

The Rev. Elizabeth Coulter, Episcopal, Coralville

The Rev. Judith Crossett, Episcopal, Iowa City

Rev. Dr. Dennis Dickman, Lutheran, Waverly 

The Rev. Maureen Doherty, Episcopal, Cedar Falls

Rev. Emily E. Ewing, ELCA, Urbandale, Iowa 

The Rev. Eileen Gebbie, United Church of Christ, Ames

Rev. Erin Gingrich, Unitarian Universalism, Des Moines

Rev. Debbie Griffin, Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. John B. Harper, Episcopal, Coralville

Rev. Deb Hill-Davis, Unity Church, Ames

Rev Carlos Jayne, United Methodist, West Des Moines

Rev. Jonna Jensen, United Church of Christ, Baldwin

Rev. Patricia Johnson, Episcopal, Sioux City

Rev. Paul A. Johnson, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rabbi Henry Jay Karp, Reform Judaism, Davenport

Rabbi David Kaufman, Reform Judaism, Des Moines

The Rev. Daniel G. Kuckuck, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Urbandale

Rev. Carmen Lampe Zeitler, American Baptist, Des Moines

The Rev. Dr. Randall R. Lyle, Episcopal, Cedar Rapids

Rev. Matt Mardis-LeCroy, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. Sophie Mathonnet-VanderWell, Reformed Church in America, Pella

The Reverend Jean McCarthy, Episcopal, Des Moines

Rev. Russell Melby, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ames

Rev. Jill Cameron Michel, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), North Liberty

The Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines

Rev. Vernon Naffier, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines

Rev. Liane Nichols, Episcopal, Cedar Falls

Rev. Patricia Adams Oberbillig, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

Pastor Beth A. Olson, Lutheran, Waverly

The Rev. Eric Pasanchin, Presbyterian Church (USA), Ankeny

The Rev. Ruth Ratliff, Episcopal, Cedar Falls

The Rev. Julia Rendon, Crossroads United Church of Christ, Indianola

The Rev. Martha Rogers, Episcopal, Marion

Rev. Dr. David Ruhe, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. Hannah Ryan, United Church of Christ, Burlington

Rev. William James Sanford Ryan, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Burlington

Rev. Michele Scott, United Church of Christ, Cedar Rapids

Rev. David Sickelka, United Church of Christ, Urbandale

Rev. Diana J. Sickles, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines

Rev. Larry W. Sonner, United Methodist, Urbandale

Rev. Jane Stewart, Episcopal, Coralville

Rev. Suzanne Hall Stout, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

The Rev. Gayle V. Strickler, Jr., United Church of Christ, Grinnell

Rev. Joseph Stutler, ULC Humanist, Marion

Rev. Carol Sundberg, United Methodist, Cedar Rapids

Rev. Cheryl R. Thomas, American Baptist, Des Moines

Rev. P. Alex Thornburg, Presbyterian Church (USA), Clive

The Rev. Canon Marlin Whitmer, Episcopal, DeWitt

Rev. Nathan Willard, United Church of Christ, Ankeny