Photo: Courtesy of the Huffington Post
Republican lawmakers in Iowa’s House of Representatives moved forward with a bill this week that would make it more difficult for married couples with children to get a divorce. The legislation, which passed a House subcommittee Monday, would ban “no-fault” divorce in Iowa for parents of children under 18. That means that in order to end their marriage, those couples would have to prove to a judge that one party was guilty of adultery, abuse, had committed a felony, or had abandoned the family for more than two years.
Republican supporters claim the measure would help prevent children from experiencing the negative impacts of divorce. One sponsor of the bill, Iowa Rep. Tedd Gassman, even went so far as to claim that the legislation would prevent young girls from “being more promiscuous,” adding that his granddaughter had been put “at risk” by her parents’ divorce.
“There’s a 16-year-old girl in this whole mix now. Guess what? What are the possibilities of her being more promiscuous?” Gassman said Monday, according to Iowa Radio. “What are the possibilities of all these other things surrounding her life that a 16-year-old girl, with hormones raging, can get herself into?”
Although it is not clear if Gassman’s bill will progress to a full committee hearing, the divorce issue underscores the difficulties Republicans face as the party moves to reshape its message to appeal to moderate voters, particularly in Iowa, a key swing state that is also home to the first-in-nation presidential caucuses.
On one hand, the Iowa bill became instant fodder for liberal blogs and commentators, fueling Democrats’ “War On Women” message. All 50 states allow no-fault divorce, and studies have shown that the laws are primarily beneficial to women, leading to a 33 per cent reduction in domestic violence and 20 per cent reduction in female suicide.
On the other hand the move to curtail “no-fault” divorce has broad support among Iowa’s Christian conservatives, a strong GOP voting bloc that is key to winning a Republican primary in the state.
“We are a smart society – I believe that we can come up with a system that protects women and prevents drive-thru divorce,” conservative talk radio host Steve Deace told Business Insider. “Using divorce to protect women is like protecting children by giving them matches. Women are never safer than when they are in a healthy, wholesome, marriage with a husband who understands his role in that relationship.”
Despite conservative support, however, the fate of the divorce bill remains uncertain. The Des Moines Register reported Tuesday that the legislation would not get a hearing this year. However, sources familiar with the process told Business Insider late Tuesday night that House Republicans were still considering moving forward with the bill during the current legislative session.
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