DES MOINES — Republicans in the Iowa Senate on Tuesday voted again to give voters a chance to decide whether the Iowa Constitution guarantees a right to an abortion.
House Joint Resolution 5, which won Senate approval on a 30-17 party-line vote, would ask voters whether they want to add language to the Iowa Constitution to make clear there is no constitutional right to an abortion or requirement for public funding of abortions. Under Iowa’s statutory criteria, a resolution seeking to amend the constitution must be approved in exactly the same form by consecutive General Assemblies before the issue would come before Iowa voters during a general election.
Before passing HJR 5, Senate Republicans amended the Iowa House-passed language — adopted by a 55-44 margin in January — with wording saying the amendment is necessary “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 require the public funding of abortion.”
The Senate’s amended resolution must be approved either this year or next by the House and then win the support of the House and Senate again during the 90th General Assembly in 2023. The resolution then to come before voters on the November 2024 general election. Senators previously approved the language, but the bill failed to clear the House last year. So Republicans restarted the process this session.
“We have an opportunity today to stand for life,” said Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City. But Sen. Jackie Smith, D-Sioux City, said senators were “debating an amendment that would make women less free.”
Proponents said the amendment is necessary to correct a “judicial overreach” by the Iowa Supreme Court, which in a 5-2 decision in 2018 found a right to an abortion in the state constitution.
That ruling also threw out a 72-hour waiting period requirement lawmakers had approved a year earlier.
Sen. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, expressed concern that the resolution would “pave the way for more countless abortion restrictions and bans.”
But Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, countered it did not directly affect abortion as much as it reined in a court that “just made up law” and return that power to the Legislature and the people.
Under a separate bill that received Senate approval by a 29-17 margin Tuesday, five school districts with voluntary diversity plans soon no longer will be allowed to reject open enrollment requests from students who wish to attend a different public school.
Proponents of House File 228 say the change is needed so parents — not bureaucrats — can decide what school setting is best for their children’s educational needs. Critics countered that ending the current arrangement would take away local control and upset the socioeconomic balance of the five districts that have diversity plans by opening the likelihood of “white flight” in some affected areas.
School officials in the West Liberty, Postville, Waterloo, Davenport and Des Moines districts have policies that restrict but do not bar higher-earning families from enrolling students in other districts via Iowa’s open-enrollment option. Schools that qualify for a diversity plan have 20% of students or more receiving free or reduced lunch.
The bill was amended and returns to the House for consideration.