Capital Clicks

Constitutional amendment on abortion moves forward in the Iowa Senate

By: - January 23, 2020 3:32 pm

An Iowa Senate committee on Thursday advanced a constitutional amendment stating abortions are not a right under the Iowa Constitution.

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 and strengthened abortion laws. 

It states that Iowa’s Constitution does not “secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

The Senate State Government Committee approved the amendment along party lines on a 10-5 vote Thursday, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The amendment needs approval of the full Senate and House this year and in the 2021-22 General Assembly.  If approved, Iowa voters would decide whether to amend the constitution.

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.

“This is judicial tyranny,” said Iowa Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, a leader on the bill. “It’s our responsibility. Not the courts.”

Iowa Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, voted against the bill, saying the Iowa Supreme Court did not overstep its jurisdiction and that its ruling and interpretation of the Iowa Constitution is part of its job.

“Make no mistake, the passage of this … It will have consequences,” Bisignano said. “It will have very, very, striking consequences to womens’ right to make decisions.”

Chuck Hurley of The Family Leader, a religious conservative advocacy group, said he supports the constitutional amendment and said it rectifies judicial overreach from 2018.

Debbie Koopman, 65, of Cedar Rapids, said reproductive health is personal to her. Koopman, who relied on Planned Parenthood for birth control both for herself and her sister, said  legislation that hurts the organization and abortion rights will lead women to go through dangerous methods for abortions.

“We are going to have more unplanned pregnancies if we don’t protect Planned Parenthood and we’ll go back to the hanger,” Koopman said. “It’s not going to stop abortions. It’s just going to drive them underground and have more women die.”


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