Des Moines, IA— Iowa lawmakers passed a bill to amend the state constitution to strip Iowans of their right to safe and legal abortion, clearing the way for the measure to again go before the Legislature as early as 2023. If it passes through the next General Assembly, Iowa voters would have the final say on the proposal as soon as 2024.
Lawmakers’ actions come just days after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear a case this fall on abortion access, the first abortion case to go before the Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the bench.
“Anti-abortion lawmakers want Iowans to believe the constitutional amendment is a neutral measure, but we know better. The constitutional amendment is an intentional effort to ban safe, legal abortion in Iowa,” said Jamie Burch Elliott, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa. “Lawmakers continue pushing their narrow political agenda over the health and well-being of their constituents. And now with an abortion case on the U.S. Supreme Court’s calendar, we are facing the very grim reality that abortion access could be completely wiped out in Iowa.”
Other states have passed similar constitutional amendments, followed by an onslaught of harmful legislation that decimated reproductive health care. Tennessee politicians and voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2014 taking away people’s right to safe and legal abortion. At the time, Tennessee lawmakers sold the measure as a way to restore regulation of abortion back to the legislature instead of the courts, mirroring the exact rhetoric being used in Iowa.
Since the adoption of the constitutional amendment, Tennessee has passed nearly a dozen restrictions on abortion, including a six-week ban, a trigger ban if Roe v. Wade is overturned and a reason ban. Lawmakers also approved a medically unnecessary 48-hour waiting period, scripted mandatory abortion counseling, ultrasound requirements and requirements for medical professionals to provide patients with scientifically unfounded information regarding a so-called medication abortion reversal.
“After passing a similar constitutional amendment, Tennessee lawmakers destroyed reproductive health care and access to abortion in their state,” said Burch Elliott. “Iowa anti-abortion lawmakers want to eliminate safe, legal abortion in our state, and they are using the constitutional amendment to pave the way. But Iowans won’t let that happen. The decision on whether to have an abortion is between an Iowan, their family, their faith and their doctor. Politicians need to respect Iowans' reproductive freedom and drop the constitutional amendment from their priorities next biennium.”
Less than one-third of Iowans support a constitutional amendment stripping people of their right to safe and legal abortion, according to a newly released Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll. Additionally, 57 percent of political independents oppose the measure, and only 55 percent of Republicans support the measure, showing the bipartisan support for keeping abortion safe and legal in Iowa.
A majority of Catholics and Protestants oppose amending the state constitution. Plus, 81 percent of those not identifying with a religion also oppose the amendment. More Iowans disapprove of the measure than a year ago, when lawmakers failed to pass it out of the Iowa House.
Hundred of Iowans have spoken up against the proposal, sending more than 1,500 emails to legislators and submitting written testimony. Legislators, however, are not required to read the testimony. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa also launched a five-figure paid advertising statewide campaign sharing experiences of Iowa women before abortion was safe and legal.
Many Iowa organizations have registered their opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment, including the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, ACLU of Iowa, Iowa Medical Society, League of Women Voters of Iowa and One Iowa.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa (PPAI) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission of fostering and preserving a social and political climate favorable to reproductive health. To meet this mission, PPAI engages in lobbying, issues education, and supporter mobilization.