Iowa Governor Nominates Anti-Abortion Catholic Priest to Serve On Board Of Medicine

Author: May 20, 2012 10:48 am

The Iowa Senate simply did not have enough time to consider the nomination of a Catholic priest to the state’s Board of Medicine, which is composed of ten seats, including three for non-physicians. Because of that, Monsignor Frank Bognanno is now an active, albeit temporary, board member. The Iowa Senate revisits the nomination in January when the body resumes work, and Bognanno could get a three-year term. But for now, he’ll serve for the rest of 2012.

Bognanno’s nomination to the Board of Medicine, however, could be a problem for women’s health in the state because Bognanno is anti-abortion which means he may also be anti-contraception. Republican Governor Terry Branstad nominated Bognanno after Senate Democrats flatly rejected his previous choice of Colleen Pasnik, a “feverishly” anti-abortion activist. But Bognanno may be just as anti-abortion as Pasnik. Not only did Bognanno join Pasnik as “part of a group that urged the board to reject a Planned Parenthood abortion-pill dispensing system,” he’s already admitted that he would come down on the anti-abortion side if he can find room for interpretation in state law.


According to the Des Moines Register,

“In an interview shortly after Branstad nominated him, Bognanno described himself as “absolutely pro-life,” but said he could fairly apply state law. The medical board, which licenses physicians, sometimes gets involved in the abortion issue when abortion opponents seek ways to limit the procedure. Bognanno’s Catholic faith condemns abortion, and he said that if the law allowed room for interpretation in a case, he would come down on the pro-life side.”

The issue here is that most anti-abortion advocates already believe that state law is wrong and that we should be following Biblical law. As a Catholic priest, Bognanno is required by church law to oppose abortion and contraception. Will he really be able to “fairly apply state law” as he says? Or is that just his way of making himself seem like a nominee the Senate can approve? Once he is approved, Bognanno can vote based on his religious beliefs all he wants, which could put the lives and health of women in Iowa at serious risk.

This also sounds like a violation of the separation of church and state because Branstad has selected a Catholic priest to serve on a state board. He didn’t choose just a Catholic citizen. He chose a priest who takes orders from the bishops, who take their orders from the Pope. Conservative Republicans have been furious about President Obama ordering insurance companies to offer contraception services to female employees of religious institutions. This nomination may be a clear Republican response that they want religion to dictate medical and health policy. I have no doubt that Bognanno is a respected clergy member, I simply doubt that he can objectively protect the health of women. The State Board of Medicine should make decisions based on what is best for people’s health. They should not make decisions based on what someone’s religion says.

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3 Comments

  • I thought the separation of church and state was a concept not a law. It would be hard to be in violation of a concept. IMO the first amendment says the government can’t tell you what or who to worship and you have the freedom to worship what or who where ever and whenever you want. In short it guarantees freedom of religion.
    The separation of church and state is guaranteed nowhere. There is no foundation for the question.

    • Margaret Blough

      You leave out the opening line of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. The Establishment Clause, paired with the Free Exercise Clause is the basis for the doctrine of the separation of church and state. The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, was very clear on the point. Thomas Jefferson was as well. Shortly before the Constitutional Convention, Virginia, after a ten year battle, disestablished the Anglican Church with Jefferson and Madison leading the disestablishment forces and Patrick Henry leading the defense of the old order. Jefferson and Madison rejected a compromise in which the taxes which had formerly been paid to the Anglican Church would be divided among all Christian denominations in Virginia. You might try reading the chapter on religion in Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=JefBv021.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=17&division=div2

  • Swear him in, then tax the Church. “Render unto Caesar….” Religion has entered the world of Mammon, and thus abandoned any claim to exemption.
    John Paul II declared priests could not be active in politics, not that they couldn’t be elected to office.
    The prelate must go.

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