Iowa’s proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment, which is likely to advance during the 2021 legislative session, will lay the groundwork for a possible future abortion ban, said the state’s Planned Parenthood lobbyist.
Slated for another vote in the Iowa House, the proposed amendment to the state’s constitution passed through the Senate last week on a party-line vote after lengthy debate. It would still need to be voted upon by Iowans during the 2024 election before enactment.
Planned Parenthood lobbyist Jamie Burch Elliott said that the amendment paves the way for a complete abortion moratorium, dependent on if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, or the chipping away of rights so that the practice might be inaccessible to Iowans.
“You hear from [Republicans] a lot of talking points about making this making the constitution abortion neutral, or saying that this doesn’t actually impact abortion access,” she said. “And I would say that that’s obviously false. You can just look at the bills that have been introduced or have gone through that have simply gone through the legislative process in the last few years to see that it is it’s very clear that the goal is to ban abortion or basically regulate it, restrict it out of existence.”
If the proposed amendment was instituted, Burch Elliott said she expects the first actions the Legislature might take would be a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that ruled the state’s Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion and withdrew a 72-hour waiting period requirement.
The recent court-ordered halt of a 24-hour waiting period before an Iowan could receive an abortion might be something that would also advance, she said.
“The Iowa constitution has thus far prevented those restrictions from going into place. So I would imagine those would be the first,” said Burch Elliott.
“But once you have this in the constitution, the sky’s the limit. There will be nothing besides a federal court case that could hold that would allow abortion rights to prevail. There is virtually nothing that the Legislature couldn’t do to restrict abortion rights at that point.”
Legislative Republicans have this session noted their plans to overwrite the Supreme Court decision.
“We have five unelected judges who used the power of the pen and the gavel to rewrite Iowa’s Constitution,” Republican Sen. Jake Chapman said during a last week’s debate of the amendment. “And that is why we are here today, unfortunately, because of the usurpation of power exerted by one branch of government.”
A slightly altered version of this amendment passed the Iowa House in January. The Senate’s version, which includes language which states the constitution is “to defend the dignity of all human life, and to protect mothers and unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the day of birth,” is headed back to the House before session closes.
“There’s nothing to prevent the majority party from just passing this through in the next few weeks,” said Burch Elliott. “I fully expect this bill to pass the legislature this year.”
by Isabella Murray
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