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Iowa House subcommittee advances proposed anti-abortion amendment

DES MOINES — Republicans in the legislature are prioritizing a process that would override an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that Iowa women have a right to abortion.

A proposed amendment to Iowa’s constitution cleared its first hurdle in the House on Tuesday. Iowans for Life executive director Maggie DeWitte thanked GOP lawmakers for bringing it forward so quickly in the 2021 session.

“I believe the people of Iowa and not unelected judges of the state Supreme Court should decide how Iowa regulates abortion,” DeWitte said.

Kim Laube, director of life ministries for Lutheran Family Service, also spoke at the subcommittee hearing.

“An inappropriate ruling by judicial activists intentionally tied legislators’ hands,” she said, “rendering it virtually impossible in the absence of a constitutional amendment to legislatively impose any reasonable restriction on abortion.”

Two Republicans on a House subcommittee voted to advance the proposal to the House Judiciary Committee. Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames, the only Democrat on the subcommittee, said legislators should focus on other issues.

“We should be talking about our increased maternal death rates,” she said. “We should be talking about access to prenatal care.”

And Wessel-Kroeschell said she felt unsafe as others in the statehouse hearing room were not wearing face masks. Jamie Burch Elliott of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa is among the dozens of Iowans who submitted written comments rather than attending the in-person hearing. She said House subcommittee hearings should be held in a virtual format that lets members of the public speak during the meeting.

“Quite frankly, Iowans deserve better,” she said. “They deserve to be able to safely offer their input on a bill that for the first time would take their rights away.”

Burch Eliott made her comments during an online news conference held via Zoom.

The process of amending Iowa’s constitution takes years and the proposed amendment discussed Tuesday stalled in the House last June. That means 2024 is the earliest the amendment could be presented to voters for ratification or rejection.

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