Iowa Democrats back abortion access, legalized marijuana, more school funding

By: - September 14, 2022 5:24 pm

Iowa House Democrats unveiled their policy goals for the next Iowa legislative session Wednesday, Sept. 14. Goals included legalizing marijuana, protecting access to abortion and increasing public school funding. (Screenshot from Iowa House Democrats)

Iowa House Democrats named increasing public school funding, protecting abortion and legalizing marijuana as goals for the upcoming legislative session Wednesday.

The legislative leaders of Iowa’s minority party unveiled their “people over politics” agenda at the Iowa State Capitol. The plan has four components: lowering costs of living, legalizing adult use of marijuana, protecting access to abortion and investing in public schools. While Democrats have rallied behind those policies for years, the four points come as the nation faces changing laws and rising inflation.

House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst said that the proposals are not just important looking ahead to the 2023 state legislative session, but for the upcoming election as well.

“We have heard from Iowans that these are the things that they want, these are the things Democrats fight for, too,” Konfrst said. “So we want to make sure Iowans know where we stand.”

Both chambers of Iowa’s legislature have Republican majorities, and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has held office since 2017. While election forecasters predict the GOP will retain control over much of Iowa’s state government, Konfrst said that many conservative goals don’t align with the needs or desires of Iowans. She pointed to Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll results in recent years that showed a majority of Iowans supported legal recreational and medical use of marijuana, as well as legal abortion in most or all cases.

The goal of protecting reproductive freedom comes as Iowa navigates the aftermath of the U.S. and state Supreme Court decisions that stated abortion is not a constitutional right. Reynolds did not call a special session to pass abortion legislation this summer, but she has called for court action re-implementing previously passed legislation. In August, the governor filed a court brief asking for an Iowa judge to lift the injunction blocking enforcement of the state’s fetal-heartbeat law.

The House Democrats’ proposal opposes the governor’s actions, as well as other potential moves to restrict or ban the medical procedure. It also calls for Iowa to officially codify the right to abortion in its state constitution.

In order to amend the state constitution, both chambers of the Iowa legislature must approve a proposal in two consecutive general assemblies. Democrats are hoping to gain ground at the Iowa statehouse during this year’s general election but are currently the minority party in both the Iowa House and Senate. Konfrst acknowledged that a proposal like an abortion amendment is not something that can happen “overnight,” but said the party was committed to combatting anti-abortion measures in the meantime.

“If we can stop a total ban and allow some exemptions, that’s a nice starting place,” she said. “But our goal is to protect and defend reproductive freedom in this state and we will do that through a constitutional amendment and every way we can before then.”

The platform also directly opposes Reynolds’ plan for state-funded private school scholarships, a cornerstone issue in both the governor’s re-election campaign and statehouse Republican primaries this June. Democrats called for an increase in funding to public schools, as well as the state’s child-care system.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.