An Iowa Senate committee approved a pro-life measure Thursday to make it clear that there is no right to kill unborn babies in abortions.
The committee approved Senate Joint Resolution 21 in a 5-2 party-line vote, moving it forward to the full state Senate for consideration, with republicans voting for the pro-life measure and Democrats backing abortion. The resolution would amend the Iowa Constitution to ensure there is no right to abortion or taxpayer-funded abortions in the state.
It states: “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.”
To be added to the constitution, the amendment must pass the state legislature both this year and next year and then be approved by voters on the ballot.
Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, told members of the Senate State Government Committee that Senate Joint Resolution 21 is needed to correct a judicial ”overreach” by the Iowa Supreme Court that “usurped” legislative authority by essentially creating a right that did not exist before the court’s 5-2 ruling to strike down an abortion limit in 2018.
“What we had was five unelected judges with the power of the gavel to rewrite our state constitution,” Chapman said before the 10-5 committee vote. “This is judicial tyranny. Do we want to cede our power — the people’s power — to unelected judges across the street to rewrite our constitution? It’s our responsibility, not the courts.”
Senators voted to place on the debate calendar a proposed amendment that eventually could come before Iowa voters to declare the Iowa Constitution “shall not be construed to recognize, grant or secure a right to abortion or to require the public funding of abortion.”
SJR21 must pass both the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House in exactly the same form this session and then win support of the 89th Iowa General Assembly elected in November before the measure would come before Iowa voters as early as the 2022 general election.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, the first female governor of Iowa, voiced her support for the measure Tuesday during her State of the State address.
Such amendments are important because the abortion industry often turns to the courts to overturn pro-life laws. Some state courts, including the Iowa Supreme Court in 2018, have found a so-called “right to abortion” in their state constitutions, and these decisions have been used to force taxpayers to fund abortions and restrict state legislatures from passing even minor, common sense abortion restrictions.
State Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said the Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which struck down a 72-hour waiting period, “invented a fundamental right to an abortion” and “usurped” the voter-elected legislature, according to Caffeinated Thoughts.
“Any plain reading of our state constitution reveals no such right,” Chapman said during the subcommittee hearing. “For over 160 years of our state’s history, no one has ever suggested that somewhere in the constitution, there was this right. In effect, the Iowa Supreme Court amended Iowa’s constitution. They overstepped their authority in that decision.”
He said the constitutional amendment would correct the “overreach” of unelected judges and restore the power to restrict abortions to the people of Iowa.
Martin Cannon, an Iowa attorney with the pro-life legal group Thomas More Society, also spoke in support of the amendment Thursday, according to the report.
“Through this nation’s history and through the state of Iowa’s history the definition of homicide, in all its forms, the prohibitions on it and the circumstances under which it is justified have been a matter for legislatures,” Cannon said. “And plainly, the constraints on the killing of a fully human, plainly living, unborn child belong there also.”
Representatives from the abortion chain Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and other pro-abortion groups spoke out against the amendment, the report continued. The abortion activists included a pastor, David Sickelka of Urbandale United Church of Christ.
“I keep hearing language about this bill that it is up to the legislature to determine what our rights are. And we also have a long history of saying that our rights are not up for a vote,” Sickelka said. “… The legislature is a part of our system of balances; there are equal roles for legislative, executive, and judicial branches.”
Kansas and Kentucky also are considering pro-life amendments to their state constitutions this year. Louisiana voters will have a similar opportunity to add a pro-life amendment to their constitution in November.
In 2018, West Virginia voters passed a similar state constitutional amendment after decades of being forced by a court ruling to fund elective abortions with taxpayer dollars. The amendment will make it easier for state lawmakers to pass pro-life laws in the future.
ACTION ALERT: Contact the Iowa Senate to urge support for SJR 21.