Senate approves proposed constitutional amendment on abortion

By: - May 19, 2021 12:59 pm

The interior of the Iowa Capitol dome. (Creative Commons photo via Pxhere)

Both the House and Senate have passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would make explicit that the Iowa Constitution does not recognize a right to abortion.

The 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 Senate voted 30-18 to approve the amendment. The amendment will need to pass the 2023-2024 General Assembly before the measure can appear on ballots. That means the earliest that Iowans will see the amendment on the ballot is 2024.

Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said the Iowa Supreme Court had “fabricated” the decision that the Iowa Constitution recognizes a right to abortion. Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, compared the effort against abortion to President Abraham Lincoln’s fight against slavery.

“Our charge and our responsibility is to do what he did,” Carlin said. “To see the unborn as human beings, for that is who they are.”

Democrats in the Senate spoke about the importance of bodily autonomy. Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, said putting the abortion amendment on the ballot made what should be a private choice into a public forum.

“It feels like you’re making my uterus public property,” Mathis said. “‘Let’s put our uterus up for a vote because we are too weak to decide what’s best for ourselves.'”

Republicans have emphasized that the amendment, if passed and added to the constitution, would not make abortion illegal in Iowa. Federal laws, including the precedent set by landmark case Roe v. Wade, would still be in effect in the state.

Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, pointed to action at the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed this week to hear a case on a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. The case could allow the court’s conservative majority to pare back Roe v. Wade. Celsi said if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the constitutional amendment could open the door for significantly more restrictive laws in Iowa.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.