Iowa House Passes Amendment Declaring Iowa Constitution Does Not Protect Abortion

House lawmakers have approved a constitutional amendment saying the Iowa Constitution does not protect abortion rights, achieving a goal that eluded a smaller Republican majority last year.

The measure was passed by the Republican-controlled chamber on a 55-44 votes Wednesday evening after more than two hours of debate. Republicans argue the measure would thwart “judicial overbreadth” of an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that affirmed abortion rights while Democrats say it would open the door to extreme restrictions on abortion rights. abortion.

Republicans proposed a similar measure last year, but House leaders did not bring it up for a plenary debate. The party had a 53-47 majority in the House last year, but they now have a bigger margin of 59-41.

Republican Representatives Jane Bloomingdale, R-Northwood, Lee Hein, R-Monticello and David Maxwell, R-Gibson, joined with all Democrats in voting against the measure. Representative Dave Sieck, R-Glenwood, was absent.

The measure is expected to pass the Iowa Senate this year – where Republicans hold a 32-18 majority – as he did it last year. If the Senate approves it, the legislature will still have to approve the language of the amendment in 2023 or 2024 before it can appear on the Iowans’ ballots in the 2024 election.

The language of the proposed constitutional amendment, Joint House Resolution 5, states: “In the defense and protection of unborn children, we, the people of the State of Iowa, declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant or guarantee the right to abortion or require it. public funding of abortion.

Republicans seek to cancel a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision with the constitutional amendment. The ruling concluded that there is a fundamental right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution. Republican lawmakers argue that the court overstepped its authority with this ruling and essentially amended the Constitution through a “court order.”

“This amendment is necessary to respond to the excessive judicial reach of the Iowa Supreme Court. The legislature makes laws, the court interprets the laws,” said Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, sponsor of the measure. .

Other news from the Iowa Legislature:

Democrats said the amendment could endanger women’s access to birth control and in vitro fertilization and block the right to abort even in cases of rape, incest or when the life of a woman. woman is in danger. They introduced changes to the amendment during Wednesday’s debate, but Republicans rejected them.

Without state constitutional protection for abortion, Democrats said Republicans would be emboldened to try to ban the procedure. Previous restrictions approved by Republicans – such as a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion and a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected – have been overturned by the courts under the Constitution of the United States. Iowa.

“At the moment, the general assembly knows that a total ban on abortion would violate our state’s constitution, so they don’t. But if HJR 5 is ratified, all bets are off,” the said. Representative Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton.

Holt, the only Republican to speak in Wednesday’s debate, has repeatedly rebuffed the claim that passing the amendment would lead to an abortion ban.

“This is not to ban abortion but rather to help protect reasonable laws already in place that are threatened by the Planned Parenthood vs. Reynolds decision, ”Holt said, referring to the Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

Holt argued that passing the amendment would make the Iowa Constitution neutral on abortion. Abortion would still be protected under federal law and decisions of federal courts, he said.

Democrats have said if anti-abortion advocates achieve their decades-long goal of overturning the Roe v. Wade of 1973 from the United States Supreme Court, abortion would likely be banned in Iowa.

“Rep. Holt, in each of his objections to these amendments, says it will remain legal under federal law. But we all know that Roe v. Wade is currently in rocky territory. We all know that,” said the representing. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames.

Several Democrats have told personal stories of their families’ experiences with abortion. Others argued that the House should focus on other topics, such as relief from COVID-19.

“I can’t even believe it. Three weeks later! Three weeks later and we’re talking about reducing or eliminating a woman’s right to reproductive choice. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so angry. in my life – never, “said Wessel-Kroeschell.

Iowa law currently prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Republicans, who control the House, Senate and governor’s office, have also passed other laws to restrict abortions in Iowa in recent years.

Other abortion-related bills are under consideration this year.

House Republicans on Tuesday introduced a bill that would require doctors to provide women seeking drug abortions with information about the reversal of the effects of the pills – information that critics say is unproven and scientifically challenged.

On Thursday, a Senate subcommittee will consider a bill this would allow Iowa residents to apply for the issuance of a “non-viable birth certificate” when a pregnancy is lost after a heartbeat is detected but before 20 weeks gestation.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the registry. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

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