Early this year, Iowa’s ban on abortions after a “heartbeat” is detected was struck down.
This brought the state’s second attempt to ban abortion in two years to an end, but Republican lawmakers in the state Senate haven’t given up.
In January this year, 29 Republican senators introduced a resolution that would add a section to the Iowa Constitution that says, “The Constitution of the State of Iowa does not secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
In March, the bill was reported out of committee.
Jamie Burch Elliot, the public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said the impact this would have on Iowa is simple.
“It will lead Iowa to allow an all-out ban on abortion,” she said. “If not that, then it opens up a six-week ban and a variety of other bans to be introduced and passed into law here in Iowa.”
In order to actually ban abortion, lawmakers would have to pass another bill through the legislature because the Supreme Court decision still stands until it’s challenged again. Actual implementation would still be complicated by the federal decisions on Roe v. Wade, but conservatives hope to successfully challenge that at some point soon with their conservative majority.
Burch said Planned Parenthood has been mobilizing its supporters since Republicans took control 2016 because this isn’t the first time lawmakers have tried to restrict abortion access.
“We’re ready, we’ve been ready, and we are ready to enact a variety of tactics to prevent this at all costs.”
But ultimately, the decision will be up to voters across Iowa.
In Iowa, the process to amend the Constitution takes a long time.
First the amendment must pass through two separate sessions in consecutive general assemblies, which are two-year terms. Then, the amendment has to be ratified by a majority of Iowans voting in an election called by the general assembly.
According to polling done by the Des Moines Register, 52 percent of Iowans believed the fetal “heartbeat” law went too far. The poll also shows that support for legal abortion has increased generally in Iowa.
This year, the bill was also introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives. The House read the proposal and the latest action taken was to refer it to the committee on Judiciary.
Jo Oldson, a Democrat in the House for District 41, serves on the Judiciary committee and as the Democratic minority whip.
“It feels like an escalation to me,” she said. “I think any time you start talking about amending the Constitution, you’re escalating into a higher level of either establishing rights or denying rights.”
Oldson said Iowans who oppose this step can get in touch with their legislators and get active in campaigns so it doesn’t make it through a general assembly in the first place. Democrats retaking the Iowa House majority would be the easiest way to ensure it doesn’t progress any further.
The earliest the amendment could appear on the ballot is 2022, so there’s time for opponents to mobilize. That, however, would mean Republicans would need to pass it through next year’s legislative session, which is no sure bet.
“In my mind, it’s [Republicans’] effort to deny women their ability to make their own decisions,” she said.
by Nikoel Hytrek