DES MOINES, Iowa – HSB 577, the “Protect Life Amendment,” cleared the Iowa House Judiciary Committee by an 11 to 9 party-line vote on Wednesday afternoon.
The proposed amendment would add the following language to Iowa’s Constitution:
“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 Senate version, SJR 2001, was approved by the Iowa Senate State Government Committee on Thursday, January 23, 2020, after a public hearing in subcommittee.
State Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, introduced the bill in the committee hearing, and members were given time to comment.
“Proponents of this amendment would have you believe that this is simply about making the Constitution silent or neutral on abortion. That this amendment to the Constitution is needed in order to prevent late-term or taxpayer-funded abortion, that it is about judicial overreach,” State Rep. Karin Deery, D-Johnston, said.
“Don’t be fooled. This amendment is about restricting women’s freedom to make their own health care decisions. It’s about telling women what they may or may not do with their bodies, with their own future,” she added.
Deery was one of two Democrat members of the committee to speak against the proposed amendment. State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, was the other.
“House Study Bill 577 is nothing more than fearmongering run amok and would curtail a woman’s freedoms and liberties. This constitutional amendment could deny a woman her freedom to make one of the most personal decisions,” she said.
The proposed constitutional amendment is a response to the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision ruling in 2018 (Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds) 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.
Justice Edward Mansfield, in the dissenting opinion, warned the court’s ruling could open the door to taxpayer funding of abortion. “I wonder if the majority is laying groundwork… perhaps a stepping stone toward a ruling that Iowa’s Medicaid program must fund abortions,” he wrote.
The court’s ruling also made abortion “a fundamental right,” something Mansfield argued in his opinion that the state’s founders never intended. Pro-life advocates contend that the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling went beyond Roe v. Wade.
Deery and Wessel-Kroeschnell argued in committee that the amendment sets the table for an abortion ban should the U.S. Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade. A law that the Iowa Legislature would have to pass and the Governor sign before a measure like that takes effect.
Responding to Deery’s remarks, Holt, in closing comments, said, “The problem with the argument about the woman’s body is that there are two bodies involved. There are two souls, and there are two human beings.”
After quoting several embryologists, he addressed the claim made by the Democrats that science favors abortion.
“Republicans are often accused of denying science when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately, the same could be said of those making this argument. The science is clear. Life begins at conception,” Holt stated.
“They talk about denying health care, what about the health care of the unborn child whose heartbeat is forever stopped?” he asked.
Pro-life advocates applauded the advancement of the proposed amendment.
“In 2018, five unelected judges tried to silence the abortion debate with a ruling that put Iowa on the path toward legalizing abortion up to the day of a baby’s birth and making Iowa taxpayers pay for it. Iowans never voted for that. If given the chance, Iowans would protect women and children. Today our elected representatives took an important step in giving the people of Iowa their voice and their Constitution back,” Drew Zahn, communications director for The FAMiLY Leader, told Caffeinated Thoughts.
“I commend the House Judiciary Committee for passing the Protect Life Amendment to go before the entire House and am eager to see its swift affirmative vote in the full House,” Caitlyn Dixson, Iowa Right to Life Executive Director said in a statement to Caffeinated Thoughts, “The Protect Life Amendment is one more step closer to being before the Iowa voters to reel in the powers taken by the judicial system in creating law.”
State Reps. Mary Lynn Wolfe, D-Dubuque, Liz Bennett, D-Cedar Rapids, Karin Derry, D-Johnston, Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, Jo Oldson, D-Des Moines, Rick Olson, D-Des Moines, Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, and Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, voted against the amendment.
State Reps. Steven Holt, R-Denison, Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, Michael Bergan, R-Dorchester, Stan Gustafson, R-Cumming, Jon Jacobson, R-Council Bluffs, Megan Jones, R-Spencer, Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, Jarad Klein, R-Keota, Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, Joe Mitchell, R-Mount Pleasant, and Ross Paustian, R-Walcott, voted in favor of the bill.
State Rep. Chris Hagenow, R-Urbandale, was absent due to a family emergency.