Iowa Senate Republican lawmakers yesterday(Thur) approved a resolution that would amend the Iowa Constitution to declare there is no right to an abortion in the state.
The measure passed the Senate 32-18 along party lines with only Republican votes. It says in part “we the people of the state of Iowa declare that this Constitution shall not be construed to recognize, grant or secure a right to abortion or to require the public funding of abortion.” It must pass in the House and then pass in the Legislature again in 2021 or 2022 before it would go to a statewide vote. If it survives and voters eventually approve it, the amendment would make state court challenges to abortion restrictions much more difficult in Iowa.
The measure is a response to an Iowa Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that struck down the legislature’s 72-hour waiting period for an abortion. In that ruling the court more broadly declared that the state constitution guarantees women the freedom to make their own health decisions, including whether to terminate a pregnancy. The ruling infuriated some conservative lawmakers and brought accusations that the court was usurping the power of the Legislature to create laws. Democratic Senate leader Janet Petersen criticized Republicans for pushing an abortion bill rather than working to improve conditions in Iowa where obstetrics departments are closing in rural hospitals.
A bill with similar language moved through a House committee on Wednesday, but a public hearing was requested so House Speaker Pat Grassley said a hearing must be held before it can proceed to full House consideration. House rules require a five-day notice of a hearing before it can be held. No date has yet been set. Grassley also suggested the possibility House language may change, which means the two chambers would have to reach agreement on language before it’s passed in a final version. Grassley said Republicans in the GOP-controlled House have made it clear they oppose abortion but the bill is as much about the courts striking down legislative action.