DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa House unanimously passed HF 819, a bill that codifies existing case law related to parental rights into the Iowa Code, by a 93 to 0 vote on Thursday evening.
The bill says the right to direct the care and custody of a child is a parent’s fundamental right. It also states that any state action infringing on parental rights is subject to strict scrutiny and must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. The bill also says that a parent’s marital status has no bearing on their parental rights. Also, the bill says a parent is presumed to be a fit parent unless “clear and convincing” evidence proves otherwise.
The bill was amended, narrowing the scope of the bill. It originally read, “The right to direct the upbringing, rearing, associations, care, education, custody, and control of a parent’s child is a parent’s fundamental right.”
This amendment was made after concerns were expressed during the subcommittee that the bill could have “collateral consequences” on things such as a pathway for visitation rights for grandparents.
State Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, the bill manager, said that the legislation does not expand case law.
“It does not and is not intended to change any court decision but merely to place them in the Iowa Code,” he said.
State Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, thanked Lohse for listening to Democrat concerns about the bill. She did not support the bill in the subcommittee but stood in support of it during the debate.
“Once this amendment goes on. It does essentially codify case law. So you know, there’s always a few concerns when we are trying to boil down a number of Supreme Court cases into code, but I think you’ve done about the best job that somebody could do. So I certainly support this amendment. I appreciate your consideration on adding it, and I will support the bill as amended,” she said.
State Rep. Eddie Andrews, R-Johnston, sponsored the bill and spoke in support of it during the debate.
“This body really does have the opportunity to be champions of families, of parents of children. And that’s exactly what this bill does,” he said.
“Parents, not the state through overreach, have the principal responsibility to care for the child,” Andrews added.
The bill will need to make it out of committee in the Iowa Senate this week to survive the second funnel.