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Proposal To Amend Iowa Constitution To Say It Doesn't Protect Abortion Rights Advances In Iowa House

abortion rights supporters
Katarina Sostaric
/
IPR file
For the third year in a row, Iowa Republican lawmakers are making an effort to add language to the Iowa Constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights.

For the third year in a row, Iowa Republican lawmakers are making an effort to add language to the Iowa Constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights. Republicans on an Iowa House subcommittee advanced the proposal Tuesday.

Many Republican lawmakers and abortion rights opponents say this constitutional amendment is needed to undo a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that found the Iowa Constitution protects a fundamental right to abortion.

This decision made it harder for abortion restrictions in Iowa to survive legal challenges. If the constitutional amendment is ultimately approved by Iowa voters, judges would use U.S. Supreme Court precedent to evaluate abortion restrictions, rather than the Iowa Supreme Court precedent that has even stronger protection for abortion rights.

“I believe the people of Iowa and not unelected judges of the state Supreme Court should decide how Iowa regulates abortion,” said Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for LIFE. “These radical judges took the rights away from all Iowans and thereby preventing common-sense protection for women and children.”

Jamie Burch Elliott, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said this could even lay the legal groundwork for banning abortion in Iowa if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.

“The strongest protection for access to safe legal abortion at the state level is when it is safeguarded by the Iowa Constitution,” Burch Elliott said. “This legislation would pave the way for further restrictions on abortion care in Iowa for decades to come.”

The proposed amendment reads, “To defend and protect unborn children, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”

The Iowa Senate passed the measure last year, but the House did not. If both chambers pass it this year or next year, they will have to approve it again in 2023 or 2024. Then it would go on the ballot for a vote of the people in 2024.

When the Iowa House of Representatives couldn’t get enough support from Republican members to pass the proposed amendment in June 2020, the Iowa Legislature instead passed a bill requiring a 24-hour abortion waiting period. That’s been put on hold as a legal challenge plays out.

Some Republican lawmakers believe the Iowa Supreme Court—now having a majority of justices appointed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds—could dismantle the 2018 ruling on abortion with a new opinion on the 24-hour waiting period.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter