Iowa Senate passes slightly different version of pro-life amendment to state constitution

By Dave Andrusko

About two months ago, we wrote about the Iowa House passing, House Joint Resolution 5,  a pro-life amendment to the state Constitution to ensure that activist judges not suddenly discover a “right” to abortion where no one had previously seen one.

On Tuesday, the fervently pro-abortion Iowa Des Moines Register reported that the state Senate had passed a slightly different version, 30-17, following more than two hours of debate.

“If the Senate and House pass the same language, the constitutional amendment would clear its first hurdle to appearing on Iowa voters’ ballots in 2024,” explained Ian Richardson. The governor, Kim Reynolds, has no formal role in the process.

Here’s the difference, according to Richardson, in the two versions:

The House’s version of the proposed amendment, House Joint Resolution 5, had stated, “To defend and protect unborn children, we the people of the state of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”

The Senate’s version changes the wording to say the constitution “shall not be construed” to recognize the right to an abortion and adds that the amendment 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.” 

Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said during Tuesday’s debate, “We have five unelected judges who used the power of the pen and the gavel to rewrite Iowa’s constitution, adding, “And that is why we are here today, unfortunately, because of the usurpation of power exerted by one branch of government.”

Sen. Chapman was alluding to a June 29, 2018, decision by the state Supreme Court in which a 5 member majority found a “right” to abortion in the state Constitution . In so doing it rejected the state’s requirement that women wait 72 hours before having an abortion, be given the opportunity to view an ultrasound scan, and be provided with information about alternatives . The 67-page-long decision was written by Chief Justice Mark Cady and overturned the 2017 law which was signed by then governor Terry Branstad.

 In so doing, the court also overturned the October 2 decision of Polk County District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell who ruled that Iowa’s three-day waiting period is constitutional.

Two justices—Justice Edward Mansfield and Justice Thomas Waterman— dissented.

  Justice Mansfield’s dissent was particularly powerful, both for what it said about Justice Cady’s attitude and the history of abortion in Iowa. Referring to the 1992 Casey decision, 

Unfortunately, the majority opinion lacks this sense of balance and perspective. Forgoing accepted methods of constitutional interpretation, the opinion instead relies at times on an undertone of moral criticism toward abortion opponents. From reading the majority opinion, one would barely know that abortion—with few exceptions—was  continuously illegal in Iowa from the time our constitution was adopted until the United Supreme Court overrode our law by deciding Roe v. Wade. From reading the majority opinion, one would scarcely be aware that many women in Iowa are prolife and strongly support the same law the court concludes unconstitutionally discriminates against them.

The challenge had been brought by the massive Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) affiliate and, as a result, the law was placed on hold, according to Tony Leys and Stephen Gruber-Miller of the Des Moines Register.

It is significant that PPH did not challenge  the part of the law that forbids almost all abortions performed on unborn children at 20 weeks (or older), a point at which medical science has shown the unborn child can experience pain.

“Often, women are in crisis when facing this decision, and it’s a decision that can impact them for the rest of their lives,” pro-life Gov. Reynolds said at the time. “I don’t think it is unreasonable to require 72 hours for someone to weigh their options and the important decision they are about to make.”

The 2018  decision was not a surprise. In 2015 [http://bit.ly/2Nkw6EC] the state Supreme Court justices struck down a rule issued by the Iowa Board of Medicine requiring abortionists to be present and perform a physical examination on a pregnant woman prior to dispensing abortion pills.

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