116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — It has not been unusual for legislation restricting abortion to be among the last bills debated before the Iowa Legislature adjourns for the year.
This year is no exception.
“I understand we’re close to the last night and here we are again,” said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, as she spoke Tuesday night against House Joint Resolution 5, which would put an amendment on the ballot as early as 2024 to allow Iowa voters to decide whether the Iowa Constitution provides a right to abortion.
The resolution, approved 54-38, must be approved by the Senate and by both chambers in the 2023-24 General Assembly to be placed on the ballot. It reads: “To defend the dignity of all human life and protect unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the point of birth, 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.”
“This will end abortion in Iowa,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “It will end legal and safe abortion care in this state no matter the circumstances.”
She called it an “extremist reaction to a reasonable and fair Supreme Court decision.”
However, backers of the resolution say the amendment is needed to correct a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that found the Iowa Constitution provided a right to an abortion.
In the 5-2 decision, the court ruled women have a fundamental right to an abortion and threw out Iowa's 72-hour waiting period requirement lawmakers had approved. The law, the majority said, violated both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution “because its restrictions on women are not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest of the state.”
Anti-abortion legislators called the decision “judicial overreach.”
“You don’t even have to be pro-life to support this amend,” said Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville. She called it a “separation of powers amendment (that) corrects a power grab by handful of judges.”
Also Tuesday night, the House voted 55-35 to accept Senate changes to SF 342, the so-called “back-the-blue” legislation Republicans said will boost support for law enforcement and enhance punishments for people convicted of rioting.
The legislation, which now goes to the governor, will shield law enforcement officers from some lawsuits in the form of qualified immunity, and raised the penalty for rioting from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony.
Democrats said the legislation is likely to have a disparate impact on Black Iowans, pointing to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency showing Iowans convicted of rioting are disproportionately Black.
The House previously passed the bill 63-30. The Senate approved it 27-18 on Monday.
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