Proposed Amendment to Iowa State Constitution Says Abortion is Not a Protected Right

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – Republicans in the Iowa General Assembly are moving toward passing a proposed amendment to the state constitution saying there is no right to an abortion in Iowa.

A resolution calling for the constitutional amendment passed the Iowa Senate Thursday by a vote of 32-18 along party lines and the amendment is moving forward in the House.

If ratified by Iowa voters, the amendment would reverse a 2018 ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court holding that a woman has a fundamental right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy.

The proposed constitutional amendment would say: “To defend the dignity of all human life, and to protect mothers and unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the day of birth, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution shall not be construed to recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or to require the public funding of abortion.”

A resolution with identical language was passed out of a committee in the House Wednesday with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.

“In response to judicial overreach and to prevent late-term and taxpayer-funded abortion in Iowa, I believe we need to advance this resolution, follow the process to amend the Iowa Constitution and allow the voters of Iowa to make the final decision,” state Representative Steven Holt said at Wednesday’s committee meeting, according to the Des Moines Register.

If the resolution calling for the amendment is passed by both chambers of the Iowa General Assembly this year, it would have to pass again in the 2021 session of the next General Assembly before being put to a ratification vote in a public referendum.

Arguing in support of the amendment, state Senator Zach Whiting, a Republican from Dickinson County, told the Senate Thursday that terminating a pregnancy “is the most egregious violation of human rights” in history. “What the [Iowa Supreme] Court did was wrong, and it’s up to us, on behalf of the people, to fix it.”

Arguing against the amendment, state Senator Eric Giddens, a Democrat from Black Hawk County said, “It is not our role as state legislators to tell women how to make medical decisions, period.” He said that, as a man, “I have no right to tell women what to do with their own bodies.”

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds called for such an amendment in her “Condition of the State” address to the General Assembly at the beginning of the session last month. “We must protect life by making clear, through an amendment, that our constitution does not grant a right to an abortion,” she told assembled lawmakers in the state Capitol. “It’s time, and unfortunately it’s necessary.”

If ratified, the amendment would reverse a 2018 ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court that said a state law mandating a 72-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion is an unconstitutional burden on women.

“Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free,” the court said in the ruling. “At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world. Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty. We therefore hold, under the Iowa Constitution, that implicit in the concept of ordered liberty is the ability to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy.”

Republican lawmakers in Iowa have sought to effectively ban abortions in the state through legislation. They passed a law in 2018, called the strictest abortion law in the nation, that would have prohibited a physician from performing an abortion “when it has been determined that the unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat,” which happens as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

A state district court judge struck down that law last year as unconstitutional based on the state Supreme Court’s earlier ruling finding a fundamental right to abortion under the Iowa Constitution.

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