DES MOINES, Iowa – On Monday, the Iowa Senate State Government Committee approved SJR 2, a proposed constitutional amendment that would add abortion neutrality language to Iowa’s Constitution by a ten to five party-line vote.
Republicans introduced the constitutional amendment responding to the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision ruling in 2018 (Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds). The majority opinion stated that the law requiring a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion violated Iowa’s due process clause and equal protection clause, thus finding a right to abortion in the state constitution.
The language of the proposed constitutional 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 House of Representatives passed their version 55 to 44. The Iowa Senate will have to approve the measure, and then the Iowa Legislature would need to pass it again in the 90th General Assembly before it goes before Iowa voters.
The Iowa Senate passed a similar resolution during the 88th General Assembly that later stalled in the Iowa House.
State Senator Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, managed the bill and just read the proposed amendment’s text for his opening remarks.
State Senator Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, was the only person to speak in opposition to the resolution.
“The Iowa constitution has been updated a number of times in our state’s history. In every circumstance, it was updated to modernize right or wrong or expand the rights of our citizens. This amendment would take rights away. And that is the wrong direction for Iowans,” she said.
Celsi accused Republicans of declaring war on pregnant Iowans.
“Some Republicans in the Senate are determined to continue this war on pregnant Iowans to stand directly between an individual who was making a serious and consequential decision for themselves and their family. These senators want to metaphorically insert their personal and religious views of their party into the lives and private decisions of Iowans of childbearing age,” she said.
Celsi warned that an abortion ban is the Republicans’ “long game” should Iowans ratify the amendment and the Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade. She then gave several examples of bills Republicans have introduced, including the six-week fetal heartbeat abortion ban, ultrasound bill, and 24-hour waiting period bill.
“We have a serious maternal health crisis on our hands. More than 30 labor and delivery departments have closed around our state. There are serious shortages of obstetricians around Iowa. Options for prenatal care are shrinking. Instead of focusing on these solvable problems, Republicans are choosing Instead to focus on a long odyssey of restricting rights through a constitutional amendment and a public vote,” she argued.
Schultz provided a brief counter during his closing remarks.
“Getting getting back to the language of the proposed amendment. It takes no position on the issue of abortion. It returns to the people the ability to control their constitution and not allow judges to read into it that which was not written into it,” he said.
The resolution is now eligible for debate and vote before the full Iowa Senate.