Continuing a fight they’ve been waging since 2018, Republicans in the Iowa Legislature have fully passed language to deny the right to abortion exists in the Iowa Constitution.
The proposed state constitutional amendment passed today in the Senate and last night in the House is mildly amended from the language it had earlier this year. It passed the Senate today 30-18, and in the House 54-38.
The amendment simply declares that Iowa’s Constitution doesn’t recognize, grant or secure a right to abortion. It’s a direct response to the Iowa Supreme Court decision that struck down recent Iowa abortion restrictions because the justices found a fundamental right to abortion enshrined in Iowa’s Constitution.
Now that it’s passed, the amendment must be adopted by both chambers again in a subsequent general assembly, which can happen as early as 2023. If it makes it through again, the amendment will be put on the ballot in front of Iowa voters. That can happen as early as 2024.
“While no, [the amendment] does not say this is a ban on abortion, removing the right to abortion essentially opens it up so that the legislature can ban abortions,” said Jamie Burch Elliot, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood North Central States. “So, you know, they’re laying the groundwork to ban abortion, particularly if Roe vs. Wade, were to be overturned.”
Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a case about a Mississippi law banning almost all abortions after 15 weeks.
The Court said they would answer the question about whether all restrictions on pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional. The landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision protects the right to an abortion until a fetus is viable, or the point at which it can survive outside the womb.
Though there’s no explicit viability age, 24 weeks is generally considered the point at which medical intervention can successfully keep a baby alive outside of the womb without significant complications.
“I do think that with news from the United States Supreme Court, you know, hearing a case that is a direct challenge to Roe vs Wade, it just adds an additional weight to this decision from the Iowa legislature,” Elliott said.
Removing the right from Iowa’s Constitution, she said, opens the state up to pass laws that massively restrict abortion in the future.
But, Elliott reiterated that abortion is still accessible and legal in Iowa, and the fight isn’t over.
“Public polls tell us that overwhelmingly a majority of Iowans support abortion rights and an overwhelming majority of Iowans oppose this particular constitutional amendment,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot of time between now and when this would potentially go on a ballot in Iowa. So nothing is certain and it will be a hard fight to ensure the right to abortion is maintained in Iowa.”
In March, a Des Moines Register poll shows only 31 percent of Iowans support the amendment and 58 percent are opposed. Most support comes from Republican voters.
“The list of things that Iowans need from this legislature is never ending. And yet here we are in the final hours of legislative session, prioritizing, taking away a fundamental right over protecting the health and safety of Iowans,” Elliott said.
by Nikoel Hytrek