Proposed amendment to Iowa Constitution on abortion passes Senate

The Republican-lead Iowa Legislature continues to push for anti-abortion legislation for the state.

Katherine Kealey

A proposal to alter the Iowa Constitution to make passing abortion restrictions easier was passed by the Iowa Senate.

The proposal passed on a party-line vote of 32-18 late Thursday.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said this will ban abortions in the state of Iowa.

“It is a constitutional amendment which, bottom line, most of the people here in the legislature are not denying that this will ban abortions in the state of Iowa,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “In the debate, they talked about how life begins at conception […] when you are talking like that, it means you are talking to ban abortions.”

The legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 2001, is titled “[a] joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa that the Constitution of the State of Iowa does not secure or protect a right to or require the funding of abortion.

Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, who advanced the amendment through a Senate sub-committee, did not respond to request for comment for this article by deadline.

Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center, said there is a process to go through before the Iowa Constitution is amended.

“The process for amending the constitution in Iowa is fairly complicated,” Kedrowski said. “Both the House and the Senate have to pass the constitutional amendment in two consecutive, two-year sessions […], so after the election, they will have to do it again in 2021-2022, and then it needs to go to the vote of the people. This is hardly a foregone conclusion.”

There is no vote scheduled on the amendment in the Iowa House of Representatives as of Monday.

Kedrowski said this sort of legislation regarding abortion is not uncommon across the country. She said pro-life activists feel as though they now have a Supreme Court that is friendly to their cause and skeptical of Roe v. Wade, and states will pass laws that will lead to court challenges to attempt to overturn Roe, which protected women’s rights to abortion access.

Wessel-Kroeschell said although the process for the amendment is lengthy, she is still concerned the process is ongoing at all.

“We have so many other things we should be concerned about when it comes to women’s health care,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “Iowa has the lowest ratio for obstetricians and gynecologists for women of reproductive health age, 29 of Iowa hospitals have closed their maternity ward, our maternal death rate has doubled in three years; this is what we should be working on to make sure it is a safe, healthy place to have children in Iowa. And right now, it has become kind of an iffy place.”

Wessel-Kroeschell said abortion restrictions will impact all women but particularly women of lower-income status.

“Women of reproductive age is the demographic that would be impacted; anytime you ban abortion in a state, that means other states have not, so even if Roe V. Wade gets overturned at the courts, there will be some states where abortions are legal,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “So if you have the means, the money to travel to other places to get the medical care, you would be able to do that; but if you are low income, that would certainly be a huge obstacle for many women. Because if you are going to go to another state, you would probably have to have a place to stay, transportation; there are a lot of obstacles for certainly anytime you have an abortion in a state, but you still have options when you have money.”

Ryan Hurley, sophomore in pre-business and president of the College Republicans at Iowa State, said he believes Iowa is on the right path.

Hurley said he looks to personal experience and has friends who have given birth in the early stages of pregnancy, and that is why he is pro-life.

“I have felt recently states have had more rights than normal and have been able to make their own decisions, and that is a very good thing in this case where we are defending the liberties of the unborn,” Hurley said.

Hurley said he hopes to see technology improve so it is even safer and easier for women to give birth as well and would like to see the adoption process become easier while ensuring safety.

Kedrowski said there are a lot of misconceptions about Roe v. Wade, such as allowing abortions through all nine months of pregnancy, when in reality, states can put restrictions on the last 20 weeks. She also said late-term abortions are not commonly done unless it is for a “dire” medical reason. 

Late-term abortions account for 1.2 percent of abortions performed in the United States, according to the most recent study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hurley said he believes abortions should be accessible in cases where the mother, the fetus or both their lives are at risk. 

While Hurley said he sees abortions as a human rights issue, Kedrowski said the topic of abortion is a women’s rights issue. 

“It comes down to a couple of things; first of all, the obvious being only women can get pregnant, and secondly, there is an issue of bodily anatomy,” Kedrowski said. “That abortion carries us into an area of the regulation of the body and one’s bodily anatomy, that is really hard to come up with anything analogous for men.”

Kedrowski said abortion should be the choice of the woman just as a patient suffering from cancer might choose to seek treatment. 

“While medical providers or the family might strongly disagree with what the patient decides to do, ultimately, the law comes down to deciding to recognize the patient’s right,” Kedrowski said. “Abortion for autonomous adults should fit in that same category: if you think abortion is a medical condition, if you think it is something other than a medical condition, then there is really nothing analogous at all.”

Wessel-Kroeschell said everyone should have the right to make their own choices about abortion.

“I think everybody has to make their own decisions about this,” Kroeschell said. “If you are somebody who has those strong feelings against abortions, then I think it is a good idea for you to not have one; you are probably then going to teach your children that [abortion] is wrong, and I am not opposed to you doing that. I am opposed to you making that decision for every woman in this state.”