Amendment declaring no right to abortion sent to full Iowa House

The Iowa Constitution is on display in Secretary of State Paul Pate's office in the Iowa Statehouse. Republicans are pro
The Iowa Constitution is on display in Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office in the Iowa Statehouse. Republicans are proposing an amendment to the constitution that would say the constitution does not guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The Iowa House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to approve a resolution for a constitutional amendment that opponents call the first step toward a state ban on abortion.

House Study Bill 41 calls for letting voters decide if they want to amend the Iowa Constitution to declare that it does not recognize a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.

That language was approved by the Senate last year but failed in the House. If approved this year and again by the 2023-25 General Assembly, it would go to the voters.

Sponsors say the legislation is needed to correct an Iowa Supreme Court decision that found the Iowa Constitution provided a right to an abortion.

In a 5-2 2018 decision, the court ruled women have a fundamental right to an abortion and threw out Iowa’s 72-hour waiting period requirement that lawmakers had approved a year earlier.

In the court’s decision, the law 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.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Steve Holt, R-Denison, called the decision judicial overreach, saying justices concocted a right where none existed.


He also cited the dissenting opinion of two justices who suggested the decision might lay the groundwork for late-term and taxpayer-funded abortion in Iowa.

That’s a “disingenuous argument used to stir up fear and confusion,” Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, said. “It is not real.”

However, Holt said seven states permit abortion “anytime for any reason, even after the day of the baby’s birth.”

“Who’s fooling whom when 11 states ... have already seen their partial-birth abortion bans stripped down by radical courts, a horrific procedure that very few Iowans and very few Americans support,” he said. “Who’s fooling whom when the taxpayers in 14 states ... have been required to fund elective abortions.”

Bohannan warned that if voters approved the amendment it would not merely limit the right to an abortion but “eliminate the state constitutional right altogether,” she said.

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, she added, “there would be no right to abortion under any circumstances. The state legislature would be free to ban abortion altogether.”

Twelve Republicans voted to send the bill to the full House. The committee’s seven Democrats opposed the resolution.

Also Wednesday, Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, has introduced companion legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 2, which is needed to “correct an Iowa Supreme Court decision regarding the life of the unborn.”


“Regrettably, five unelected judges, with the stroke of a pen, fabricated a constitutional right to an abortion under Iowa’s Constitution,” Chapman said in his opening day remarks. “This egregious usurpation of power will not be left unchecked.”

Chapman has 28 co-sponsors for the resolution.

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