Iowa moving ever closer to placing a pro-life constitutional amendment on the ballot

By Dave Andrusko

I was about to post this story just an hour ago when I learned of an important new development.

On Tuesday, the vote in the Iowa House on House Joint Resolution 5 was 53-46, with all but three Republicans voting in favor of the proposed amendment to the state Constitution while all Democrats voting against.  It make explicit that the Iowa Constitution does not recognize a right to abortion, which the Iowa Supreme Court said it did in 2018. 

This morning the Iowa Senate followed suit by a vote of 30-18. According to reporter Katie Akin, the  amendment reads

“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 Iowa Capital Dispatch reported 

Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said the Iowa Supreme Court had “fabricated” the decision that the Iowa Constitution recognizes a right to abortion. Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, compared the effort against abortion to President Abraham Lincoln’s fight against slavery.

“Our charge and our responsibility is to do what he did,” Carlin said. “To see the unborn as human beings, for that is who they are.”

The headline to a report yesterday in the relentlessly pro-abortion Des Moines Register read “Iowa moves closer to an anti-abortion constitutional amendment as House approves measure,” followed by Iowa Republican lawmakers are on track to pass a proposed constitutional amendment stating that the Iowa Constitution does not secure a right to abortion.” This was prior to the Senate’s concurrence on Wednesday.

As we’ve discussed several times in this space, the proposed amendment to the Iowa state Constitution is in response to a 2018 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that invalidated a law requiring  a 72-hour waiting period and, in the process, held that the state constitution affirms a right to abortion.

The Iowa House and Senate had passed slightly different bills and those differences needed to be ironed out, which explains the hold up in passage. The Register’s Stephen Gruber-Miller reported that on Tuesday Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, the measure’s floor manager, said agreement had been reached, which proved to be true today.

“I believe this is about the people of Iowa deciding this issue through their elected representatives, not an activist Iowa Supreme Court,” Rep. Holt said. “For those that oppose this language, nobody mentions, ever, the unborn child,” he added. “Nobody mentions the second heartbeat.” 

Democrats disagreed “vehemently,” according to reporter Akin. “This amendment, this bill is an attempt to turn back the clock to some imaginary time when there were no abortions … There were abortions,” said Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City.

The amendment still has a long ways to go. “Lawmakers would have to agree on the same language in 2023 or 2024 before the measure could appear on Iowa voters’ ballots in 2024 for an up or down vote,” Gruber-Miller wrote. “If approved by a majority of Iowans, the language would then be added to the state’s constitution.”

Earlier this month, Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for Life, told reporter James Q. Lynch that what the Iowa Supreme Court did in 2018 “was even more extreme than Roe v. Wade.

DeWitte said the amendment will “allow our elected representatives and the people of Iowa to make decisions about the health and safety and well-being of its citizens.” Without it, there is no way to prevent late-term abortions “even up to the point of birth.”