For almost 50 years the US Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade has divided this country over the issue of abortion. Questions and debate rage over abortion, but the decision itself creates its own questions. The issue of abortion goes back beyond the founding of America. But for the first time abortion was found to be included in the U.S. Constitution despite not being mentioned even once. This is part of why the division is so deep.
In 2018 the Iowa Supreme Court issued a similar but even more far-reaching decision. In an opinion that could not point to one reference to abortion in the Iowa Constitution, the majority opinion discovered a new right that implies any late-term abortion or even taxpayer funding of abortion could be read into Iowa’s founding document.
Recently I chaired Senate Joint Resolution 2 in subcommittee and in the full State Government Committee. This proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution reads as such: “Protection of life. To defend the dignity of all human life, and to protect mothers and unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the day of birth, 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.”
The majority decision was made to look even more hollow and fabricated when it was pointed out that members of our first legislature who helped write and sign the Iowa Constitution filed pro-life bills restricting abortion just two years later.
It must be pointed out that we have a far different makeup of our Iowa Supreme Court these days. Through multiple retirements and an unfortunate passing, we now have a court of justices who were selected for their commitment to uphold the Constitution as written and to recognize the intent of the writers as best they can. I thank Governor Reynolds for appointing originalist justices to our state Supreme Court.
I have often referred to this proposed amendment as the amendment that doesn’t change anything. By that, I point out that the Iowa Constitution doesn’t take a position on abortion as written in 1857, and by adopting this amendment it still won’t. With the amendment, activist justices in the future will not be able to create new ideas in a document that is 164 years old. The issue of abortion will reside with the people of Iowa, and their legislature.
Some may be disappointed, but the amendment language does not ban, limit, or restrict abortion in any way. It only establishes what Iowa has known since 1857 – that the word or intent of abortion is not in our state constitution. If SJR 2 passes both chambers, it will have to be passed in the next Legislature after the 2022 elections. If it passes both chambers again, it will be ready for Iowans to decide on the 2024 General Election ballot.