GOP lawmakers begin new push to restrict abortion rights

By: - January 16, 2020 4:54 pm

An Iowa Senate subcommittee considers a constitutional amendment that declares there is no right to abortion in the state constition. From left are Sens. Claire Celsi, Jake Chapman and Roby Smith. (Photo by Linh Ta, Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa Republican leaders are once again pushing for a constitutional amendment that would limit abortion rights in Iowa after an attempt to pass a similar measure fell short in 2019.

The amendment aims to nullify the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2018 that struck down a law requiring a 72-hour waiting period for abortions. It states that Iowa’s Constitution does not “secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

A subcommittee of the Senate State Government Committee discussed Senate Joint Resolution 21 on Thursday. The resolution passed 

Iowa Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, a leader on the resolution, said the justices overreached in their 2018 decision. He said the amendment would allow the elected Iowa Legislature and the public to decide on abortion measures instead.

“No one in Iowa believed this was a fundamental right under Iowa’s Constitution,” Chapman said. “Show me where there’s a right to an abortion. It’s the most misconstrued, grasping (interpretation) that I’ve ever seen in a judicial decision.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which established abortion rights across the country, would still be in effect and protect abortions in Iowa. But the constitutional amendment would make it easier for lawmakers to once again pass abortion-limiting measures like the fetal heartbeat law. That law, which restricted abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, was struck down in 2019 by a district judge who cited the state Supreme Court ruling.

Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, who sits on the State Government committee, said the amendment moves Iowa in the wrong direction and removes rights from Iowans.

“If approved, the constitutional amendment seeks to take away a right to bodily autonomy and privacy,” Celsi said.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said Republicans are still discussing the constitutional amendment, though they have not yet agreed on the language in the amendment. Editor’s note:  This story has been updated to correct an editor’s error and delete a reference to House action on an amendment.  The Iowa House has not approved similar legislation.

If the House and Senate approve a constitutional amendment in identical form, the resolution would have to be approved by the next General Assembly in 2021 or 2022. It then would be on the next general election ballot for a vote of Iowans.

In her Condition of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds also mentioned her support of a constitutional amendment that eliminates the right to an abortion in the Iowa Constitution.

“It’s time, and unfortunately it’s necessary,” Reynolds said. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.