Constitutional amendment denying abortion rights clears House panel

The Iowa House Judiciary Committee considers a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to specify that Iowans don't have a right to an abortion or to public funding of an abortion. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would specify that Iowans have no right to an abortion passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on a party-line 11-9 vote. 

The legislation, House Study Bill 577 also would specify that Iowans have no right to public funding for an abortion.

Democrats requested a public hearing that will be held before the bill is considered by the full House of Representatives.

Lawmakers from the Republican majority said the legislation is needed after a series of Iowa Supreme Court rulings overturned previous attempts to limit abortion. 

“We need this amendment because the people of Iowa and not unelected judges of the Supreme Court should decide if we need this,” said Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison. He accused various courts of overreaching, noting a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that said Iowa’s 72-hour waiting period for abortions was illegal and a 2019 Polk County District Court ruling throwing out Iowa’s ban on abortion once a fetal heartbeat was detected.

Holt said the legislation is needed to prevent abortions even in late-term pregnancies. “In response to judicial overreach and to prevent a taxpayer-funded abortions in Iowa, I believe we need to advance this resolution, follow the process to amend our constitution and allow voters of Iowa to make the decision,” Holt said. 

The resolution would have to pass two legislative sessions and win approval of Iowa voters to amend the constitution. Gov. Kim Reynolds has strongly supported the amendment. 

Two Democrats on the committee, Reps. Karin Derry of Johnston and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames, said the resolution amounts to GOP fear-mongering and is an insult to women who should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies. 

“The Republicans are using frankly insulting language to mislead and to distract from their true agenda, which is to ban abortion and I urge my colleagues to reject this,” Derry said. 

Said Wessel-Kroeschell: “This resolution is nothing more than fear-mongering. The constitutional amendment would deny your freedom to make a personal decision.” She added that a recent poll found that 77% of Americans support the Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision.

Holt said the argument that women should have domain over their own bodies leaves out part of the issue.  “You talk about women’s bodies,” Holt said. “There are two bodies involved. What about the body of the fetus?”

 

Perry Beeman
Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.