(The Center Square) – Both the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate introduced bills April 26 that would ban the use of vaccine passports.
HF889 unanimously passed out of the Judiciary Committee in a 16-5 vote April 26. More than 100 people attended the meeting.
SF610 and HF889 both forbid the government and businesses from requiring visitors or customers prove they received the COVID-19 vaccine. Specifically, the state and “any political subdivision of the state” would not include on any identification card they issue whether the holder has received a COVID-19 vaccine, and neither businesses nor government entities could require those “invited onto the premises” to “furnish proof” of vaccination status prior to entering. Businesses or governmental entities that violate the law could not receive state revenue-funded grants or contracts. However, businesses can continue to screen visitors for COVID-19, and healthcare facilities would be exempt from the proposed ban.
In public comment during subcommittee of the whole on HF889, many individuals pushed for the removal of the healthcare facilities’ exemption from the ban for various reasons, including individual freedom and religious concerns.
However, Iowa Hospital Association Vice President of Government Relations and Legal Counsel Nicole Proesch said the association supports the bill in its current form as they believe it addresses concerns regarding patients’ care. She said the association would resist any amendment to the bill to remove exclusions for hospitals, “in being able to care for their patients and continuing to work for an end to the pandemic.”
Judiciary Chairman Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said he believes vaccine passports are “un-American” and that each individual should decide for themselves whether they would like to be vaccinated.
“I think this is a civil rights issue. I think it is a fundamental human rights issue. … I understand that [the bill] doesn’t go as far as lots of people would like,” Holt said. “I started out exactly where many of you talked about today and basically went backwards based upon getting to the point where I felt we could get something actually signed into law as opposed to academic discussions that don’t result in action. So that is where we are today. I will take these concerns forward and see what more we can do.”
Holt said the bill, at this time, does not extend to employees of businesses and he anticipates “a lot of discussions” about that aspect “in the next few days.” He also said big businesses in particular “don’t want to be seen as disobeying the law.”
Lauren Gideon of Ankeny, Iowa who represents The Cultivated Patriot group, argued that vaccine passports would violate the Fourth and Fifth amendments.
"We now live in a culture where everyone is presumed to be a disease spreader unless they can prove otherwise," Gideon said.
"To restate this more bluntly, the Iowan is now assumed guilty unless he or she can prove himself to be innocent instead of being innocent until proven guilty. This unfortunate manifestation of our circumstances, coupled with fear, threatens Iowans' liberty at a foundational level.... Will you allow Iowans to be assumed guilty and subject to invasion of privacy without probable cause?"
Rep. Mary Lynn Wolfe, D-Clinton, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said that while she believes there are improvements that could be made to the bill, “sometimes, something is better than nothing.”
Rep. Steven Hansen, D-Sioux City, said he wonders whether the people who have died from COVID-19 might have survived if they had received vaccines.
“Yes, we do have a declining death rate, and we have a declining case rate,” Hansen said. “But I do believe that those of us who have gotten our second shots, those of us who have gotten our first shots, I think we’ve contributed to lowering the death rates … the new case rates.”
The bills would take effect immediately upon passage.