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Iowa Senate Approves Amending Iowa Constitution To Say It Doesn't Protect Abortion Rights

iowa senate
John Pemble
Iowa Public Radio
Iowa Senate

The Iowa Senate passed a resolution Thursday that would amend the state constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights.

The proposal is meant to undo a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling providing strong legal protections for abortion rights, a decision abortion opponents say was a product of so-called “judicial activism.”

The constitutional amendment could lay a foundation for more abortion restrictions in the state.

All 32 Republican senators voted for the amendment. They say the people of Iowa should get to decide if people have a right to seek an abortion under the state constitution.

“While the legislature has its role to play, only the people, not unelected judges, can amend our constitution,” said Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel.

All 18 Democrats voted against the constitutional amendment.

“This amendment is not designed to protect women,” said Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines. “The intent of this constitutional amendment and the politicians behind it is to make sure Iowa can ban abortion without exception.”

Thursday’s vote was an early step in a long process.

An identical proposal has been advancing in the House of Representatives. If that chamber also passes it this year, lawmakers will have to pass it again in 2021 or 2022. Then it would go on the ballot so voters could decide on amending the constitution.

Abortion rights have been constitutionally protected at the federal level since 1973. If this constitutional amendment is eventually ratified, courts will have to refer to federal abortion rights precedent to evaluate abortion laws passed in Iowa.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter