Judicial boogeymen and false myths about abortion in Iowa were promoted by Republican officials and conservatives in a subcommittee meeting this morning as HSB 41, an anti-abortion amendment to the Iowa Constitution, was referred by Rep. Steven Holt to the full House Judiciary Committee.
The study bill proposes an amendment to the Iowa State Constitution that would outlaw abortion by declaring the state doesn’t support the procedure.
The anti-abortion amendment states: “To defend and protect unborn children, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”
Rep. Anne Osmundson, Republican from District 56, Clayton County, and Holt, a Republican from District 18, Crawford County, both supported the amendment and said it isn’t just about life.
“To me it’s more about the judges overstepping their bounds, taking away the freedom of Iowans. I think we need to put it back into the hands of Iowans,” Osmundson said. “This amendment allows the people to have a voice.”
Holt echoed her sentiment.
Before the three representatives spoke, the floor was open to public comments and more than 10 citizens spoke in support. Those speakers were a mix of regular citizens and representatives for groups opposing abortion, like the Iowa Catholic Conference and Iowa Right to Life.
Most of the public comments complained about judicial overreach in 2018, echoing similar complaints regarding the Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage equality in 2009.
Supporters of the bill also argued that abortion is dangerous for women, and some said existing restrictions aren’t enough.
Many people said that, without this amendment, Iowa could end up supporting abortions up to a woman’s due date, or make taxpayers pay for abortions. Both of those slippery slope arguments are false, according to current Iowa law.
Cases of life endangerment, rape, incest and fetal anomaly, are the only times when an abortion can be performed in Iowa after 20 weeks or with any public funding, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In the case of any Medicaid (public) funding, Gov. Kim Reynolds must approve the abortion.
Although the subcommittee meeting was available to view online, Iowa House Republicans only allowed those in attendance to speak. Rep. Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from District 45, Story County, was the only voice in the room to speak against the bill.
“Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty. We therefore hold that, under the Iowa constitution, that implicit to the concept of ordered liberty is the ability to decide whether to continue or terminate pregnancy,” Wessel-Kroeschell said during her two minutes.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa cited the risk of COVID-19 as the reason “many Iowans who oppose the constitutional amendment will not have their voices heard in the legislative process.”
Though not in the room, a few people who watched the livestream held “I stand with Planned Parenthood” signs in front of their webcams.
Wessel-Kroeschell also said the state should be more focused on rates of maternal mortality than denying women autonomy over their bodies. Wessel-Kroeschell called the amendment reckless, insulting and said it diminishes women and mothers.
After the subcommittee meeting, three reproductive rights organizations held a press conference and offered more opposition to the bill.
“Instead of limiting health care options, we need solutions that will improve the health of Iowans and protect their right to make reproductive health care decisions that are best for their situation,” said Jamie Burch Elliot, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the North Central States.
“Iowans deserve freedom from political interference and should be able to choose their futures.”
Connie Ryan, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance, and Laura Hessburg, director of public policy for the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, also participated.
All three said they were concerned that written comments opposing HSB 41 wouldn’t be heeded because lawmakers have no obligation to read or listen to them.
They said they didn’t have voices in the room because of COVID-19 concerns.
HSB 41 is a joint proposal and if adopted in the House of Representatives, it would be referred to the next legislative session for a second adoption. If the proposal is adopted again, the amendment goes to Iowa voters.
Last year, the Iowa Senate passed a similar bill.
This amendment is part of a long-time effort by Iowa Republicans to ban the medical procedure in the state. In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the bill requiring women wait 72 hours to get an abortion. In 2019, the Supreme Court struck down a bill banning abortion after a fetal “heartbeat” is detected.
In 2020, the Iowa legislature passed a rule requiring a waiting period and physician certification that a woman had counselling and an ultrasound 24 hours before the procedure. This rule was blocked by the courts.
The state still prohibits abortion after 20 weeks, and in 2017, Iowa’s model for family planning funding changed to a system that allowed the state to deny money to clinics that provide abortions. The switch resulted in the closure of several Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa.
Timeline of Iowa Abortion Restrictions
Source: National Institute for Reproductive Health
*Asterisks indicate that a court has blocked this provision from enforcement in whole or in part.
No individual who is legally able to help provide abortions is required to participate in an abortion if it is against their religious or moral beliefs. Public hospitals do not have to provide abortion care.
Iowa Code Ann. § 146.1-2
Bans abortion after the second trimester as “feticide,” with very limited exceptions.
Iowa Code Ann. § 707.7
Employers may exclude health insurance coverage for abortion from employer-provided plans, with very limited exceptions.
Now listed at Iowa Code Ann. § 216.13
School-based youth services education programs for at-risk children cannot include abortion counseling or contraceptive dispensing.
Iowa Code Ann. § 279.51
Minors cannot receive abortions unless notification is provided to a parent 48 hours in advance. Minors who cannot fulfill the parental notification requirement must participate in a court hearing and prove to a judge that they are mature and well enough informed to make the abortion decision on their own.
Iowa Code Ann. § 135L.3
Prohibits so-called “partial birth abortions” and specifies that physicians may be sued for performing them.
Iowa Code Ann. §707.8A*
Before an abortion is performed, requires physicians to 1) perform an ultrasound and allow the pregnant woman an opportunity to view it; 2) give each woman the option to hear the fetus’ heartbeat; and 3) provide each woman information about alternatives to abortion.
Iowa Code Ann. §146A.1*
Outside of very limited circumstances, abortions may not be performed after 20 weeks’ gestation. These provisions refer to “unborn child” instead of “fetus,” defined as “an individual organism of the species homo-sapiens from fertilization until live birth.”
Iowa Code Ann. §146B.1-2
Creates a waiting period before a pregnant woman can obtain an abortion by requiring the physician to certify that an ultrasound and mandatory counseling have been provided 72 hours in advance of the abortion.
Iowa Code Ann. §146A.1*
Prohibits any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed from receiving family planning services program funds.
Iowa Code Ann. §217.41B
Bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (as early as six weeks into pregnancy), with exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly incompatible with life.
Iowa Code Ann. §146C.1-2*
Specifies that the “medical emergency” exception to abortion restrictions does not include psychological conditions, emotional conditions, familial conditions, or the pregnant woman’s age.
Iowa Code Ann. §146A.1*
Prohibits the acquisition, provision, receipt, transfer, or use of fetal remains resulting from abortion, with limited exceptions.
Iowa Code Ann. §146D.1
Creates a waiting period before a pregnant woman can obtain an abortion by requiring the physician to certify that an ultrasound and mandatory counseling have been provided 24 hours in advance of the abortion.
Iowa Code Ann. § 146A.1(1)*