Now that Iowa’s 2021 legislative session has adjourned, we’re looking back on the legislative battles of the last five months and what lies ahead.
From an anti-abortion constitutional amendment to restricting voters, anti-abortion legislators centered the 2021 session around undermining the health, safety, and rights of Iowans.
Constitutional Amendment Passes First Hurdle
In the last days of the session, anti-abortion legislators pushed, promoted, and passed a constitutional amendment that would pave the way for future abortion restrictions and even outright bans in Iowa.
You did not let this happen without a fight. Over 2,000 Iowans spoke out against the proposed amendment during this session by contacting legislators, attending virtual lobby days, testifying at legislative hearings, and joining our virtual People’s Hearing. These efforts were bolstered by our partners, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and One Iowa, who further organized in opposition to this harmful legislation. And our champions at the legislature like Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, Sen. Liz Mathis, Sen. Janet Petersen, and Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott fiercely opposed the amendment during debate. Thank you.
So-called "Back the Blue Bill" Passes
In response to widespread protests and the overdue racial reckoning across the United States after the murder of George Floyd, the Iowa legislature passed SF 342, also known as the Back the Blue bill. The legislation limits the ability of Iowans to seek justice by expanding qualified immunity for police, and infringes on the right to free speech by elevating the penalty for rioting from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Increased Voter Restrictions after Historic Turnout
Early in the session, Iowa politicians prioritized legislation to make voting more difficult. Restricting access to the ballot box is restricting access to democracy. SF 413 reduces the early voting period and sets an earlier time for polls to close on Election Day. This is an equity issue: these restrictions will disproportionately affect low-income and working Iowans who cannot take time off work to vote.
Risking the Health of Iowans Across the State
In the final moments of legislative session, politicians passed a ban on school boards, as well as city and county governments from enacting mask mandates. Gov. Kim Reynolds passed the bill in the middle of the night. In the immediate aftermath, mask-wearing students have experienced increased bullying at schools and pressure to take them off. We have yet to see how this move will impact the long-term health of Iowans. Despite the passage of this legislation at the local level, we recommend all Iowans to follow all CDC guidelines on COVID safety and masking.
Bright Spot: All anti-LGTBQ Bills Were Defeated Including Discriminatory Bill Banning Transgender Athletes
Governor Kim Reynolds pushed for legislation to ban transgender girls from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. One Iowa led the way and rallied Iowans to speak out against this blatantly discriminatory legislation and the legislature was unable to deliver on the governor’s request. As states across the nation continue to pass such bills, the fight to protect transgender youth in Iowa is likely not over.
Thank you for standing with Planned Parenthood to advocate for the health and rights of Iowans. We couldn’t do this work without you.
Our fight is far from over.
The constitutional amendment process spans several yearsand we are keenly aware that a case threatening Roe v. Wade will be heard by the Supreme Court this fall. Anti-abortion politicians want us to get tired and quit. Together, we will protect Iowans’ health care and rights. Together, we will protect Iowans' health care and rights.