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Iowa Republicans pushing anti-abortion amendment

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Anti-abortion activists participate in the 2020 “March for Life” rally near Capitol Hill in Washington. Organizers of the March for Life, the anti-abortion movement’s preeminent annual event, are asking their supporters nationwide not to gather in Washington in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest.

Iowa House Republicans are kicking off the 2021 legislative session by reigniting the debate over whether or not the Iowa Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion.

A draft of anti-abortion constitutional amendment passed an Iowa subcommittee by a vote of 2-to-1 on Tuesday, aiming to overturn a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision guaranteeing abortion as a right. The draft states the amendment would change the Iowa Constitution to, “not recognize, grant or secure a right to an abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) is among the Iowa House Republicans making anti-abortion legislation a priority, and said because the Iowa Constitution does not specifically address abortion that the Iowa Supreme Court incorrectly declared abortion as a fundamental right.

“We can’t have an activist court that finds magic rights in the constitution, we can’t let that stand,” Fisher said. “It should be up to the legislature, not the court.”

The Iowa Supreme Court declared abortion as a fundamental right in Iowa in 2018 after Planned Parenthood of the Heartland challenged a law signed by then Gov. Terry Branstad requiring a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.

Part of the Iowa Supreme Court’s official opinion reads, “autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free. At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity,

destiny, and place in the world. Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty.”

The ruling also set a precedent to help strike down the fetal heartbeat bill signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds in 2018, which outlawed abortion after a fetal heartbeak is detected effectively banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Now that the amendment draft to change the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling has passed a House subcommittee, it must pass through both chambers of the Iowa Legislature for two consecutive two-year sessions and then be put up to a public statewide vote on the 2024 election ballots.

Fisher said he foresees the amendment will pass this year with Republicans holding a 32-18 majority in the Iowa Senate and a 59-41 majority in the Iowa House, but Republicans have to make it through another election before the amendment can attempt to be passed again. If the amendment fails before reaching a public vote, Fisher doesn’t see future anti-abortion legislation in Iowa as feasible.

“We don’t see much of another path,” Fisher said. “Every piece of legislation we’ve passed to try to limit, regulate abortion, and protect the right to life has been stuck down.”

Latest data from Pew Research Center gathered in 2014 found 52 percent of adult Iowans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 46 percent said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Approval for legal abortion in Iowa has trended upwards according to Pew Research Center, with Iowans divided more down the middle on the issue in the past. Data collected in 2007 found 46 percent of Iowans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 45 percent said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Mark Mauk, founder and board chairman of Guiding Star Marshalltown, a non-profit organization providing holistic and pro-life healthcare alternatives for women, says he personally supports the amendment and is encouraging his elected representatives to vote for it.

“There are many people in the community in favor of this amendment going through,” Mauk said. “It’s sad we have to have an amendment for this because people are reading into the constitution items that are not there.”

Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com

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