Photo credit: Tony Fischer

DES MOINES, Iowa – HJR 2004, the Protect Life Amendment, was tentatively scheduled for debate on Friday. The Iowa House has been at ease since 8:30 am with House Democrats and Republicans meeting in their respective caucuses. 

Floor debate is expected to happen tonight, but Caffeinated Thoughts has learned HJR 2004 will not be debated and voted on Friday night.

The proposed constitutional amendment intends to clarify that a right to abortion and abortion funding does not exist in the Iowa Constitution. The current language reads: “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 current bill cleared the House Judiciary Committee on February 12. A public hearing was held on February 25. The Iowa Senate passed an identical version, SJR 2001, on February 13 by a 32 to 18 vote.

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.

House Democrats offered several amendments.

State Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, offered an amendment replacing the current language with language prohibiting racial discrimination. State Rep. Timi Brown-Powers, D-Waterloo, offered an amendment replacing the current language with language that protects the rights of workers during a pandemic. State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, proposed two amendments that add the following language:

  • “This section shall not be construed to prohibit or affect the disposition of unused embryos produced for the purposes of in-vitro fertilization.”
  • “This section shall not be construed to prohibit the sale, use, prescription, or administration of a measure, drug, or chemical designed for the purposes of contraception.”

State Rep. Marti Anderson, D-Des Moines, offered an amendment that adds after “abortion” the following language: “unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or unless the woman is certified by a physician to be in danger of death unless the abortion is performed.” 

A House Republican also offered an amendment that tweaked the language of the constitutional amendment.

State Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, the House Judiciary Chair and floor manager for the bill, offered a change to the constitutional amendment that 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 thereof.”

Multiple sources confirmed for Caffeinated Thoughts an internal debate within the House Republican caucus over the language of the Protect Life Amendment, including its title. 

Should the Iowa House not pass the Protect Life amendment this session, the legislature will have to start over. 

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