Iowa lawmakers advance constitutional amendment to exclude ‘right to abortion’

Lawmakers in Iowa this week passed a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution which would exclude a “right to abortion” or to public funding for abortion.

House Joint Resolution 5 would amend the Iowa state constitution to clarify that it “does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”

The amendment is particularly prescient for Iowa, as the state’s Supreme Court found a “right to abortion” in the state’s constitution in 2018.

The Iowa Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a 72-hour waiting period for abortion, on the grounds that “a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.” The proposed amendment would nullify the court’s finding.

The resolution passed Jan. 27 by a vote of 55-44. During a two hour debate, several Democratic representatives introduced amendments to the resolution, such as an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, none of which survived the vote.

The Senate is likely to pass the measure, the Des Moines Register reported. Under current law, abortion is legal in Iowa until the 20th week of pregnancy.

The Iowa Catholic Conference has testified in support of the amendment, saying it would make the state constitution “abortion-neutral.”

“Without this change, if or when Roe v. Wade is struck down or federal law is modified, abortion will remain a fundamental right in Iowa,” the conference said in 2019. The state Supreme Court decision means strong scrutiny for “any regulation of abortion or efforts to restrict its public funding.”

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