House passes bills on pumpkin patch perils, fertility fraud

Iowa lawmakers advanced legislation to help schools access Iowa farm products. (Creative Commons photo via Pxhere)

Pumpkin patches, apple orchards and petting farms would face fewer legal repercussions when tourists get injured on their property under a bill passed Tuesday by the Iowa House.

Senate File 356, called the “Iowa Agricultural Tourism Promotion Act,” would give new legal protections to farms that offer tours. If a visitor is injured or killed on the property due to an “inherent risk of farming,” if the visitor contributed to the injury, or if the visitor did not comply with written or spoken warnings, the owner of the farm could not be held liable.

“Iowa’s 90 pumpkin patches, 50 apple orchards and 20 you-pick strawberry patches contribute to our state’s economic development,” Rep. Shannon Latham, R-Sheffield, said. “I believe the passage of Senate File 356… will indeed promote tourism in agricultural related activities across Iowa.”

Democrats in the House asked why agricultural tourism businesses should receive additional protections that other industries don’t enjoy. Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, gave the example of a child running through a pumpkin patch, falling in a hole and breaking her leg; under the bill, if the child “contributed to the injury,” her family could not win any civil remedies from the farm owners.

“We are treating these businesses differently from any other business,” Meyer said.

Latham responded that farms would still be responsible in cases of negligence, willful misconduct, the use of drugs or alcohol, or illegal and intentional acts.

The House voted 53-40 to pass the bill with an amendment, sending it back to the Senate.

House votes unanimously on fertility fraud bill, with hysterectomy amendment

The House also passed a bill to criminalize fertility fraud, or the use of human reproductive material that the patient didn’t consent to in writing.

Several advocates told stories to lawmakers of their conception through assisted reproduction and then, years later, their realization that the doctor was their biological father, despite their mother not having given consent.

Nonconsensual insemination would be sexual abuse in the fourth degree, an aggravated misdemeanor, under the amended version of the bill. The doctor could face up to two years in jail.

The House also amended Senate File 529 to also include a section on hysterectomies. The bill would allow any woman over 18 to consent to her own hysterectomy, whereas under current law, a doctor can require spousal consent.

The House has passed standalone hysterectomy legislation this session, the Des Moines Register reported, but the proposal did not make it through the Senate. With a unanimous vote in the House, Senate File 529 will move back to the Senate chamber for consideration.