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Under Texas' Shadow, Iowa Still Debating Reproductive Rights

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021   

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa is not among the states that have so-called "trigger laws" that could be enacted if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, the abortion issue is far from settled in the Hawkeye State.

In recent years, state Republicans have tried to enact tighter abortion restrictions, but those efforts were blocked by legal decisions tied to a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

Despite those outcomes, GOP lawmakers hope a state constitutional amendment will give them more flexibility, if adopted.

Alice Wang, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in many parts of the country, there is a galvanized effort right now to dismantle core protections under Roe.

"The national landscape for abortion access is, frankly, really dire," Wang asserted. "The real-world harms are staggering."

Wang recently took part in a discussion led by the Iowa Center for Human Rights. She noted Texas' new abortion restrictions, and the backlog they've created in other states. Aside from Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court soon will hear a similar case from Mississippi.

In Iowa, the amendment seeks to overturn the state's high-court ruling, but needs to clear hurdles, including going before voters in 2024. Backers, such as Gov. Kim Reynolds, say they are protecting the dignity of human life.

A recent Des Moines Register poll found a majority of Iowans saying abortion should be legal in most cases.

Pete McRoberts, policy director for the ACLU-Iowa, said that does not mean policy efforts will go away. He argued if the proposed amendment is ultimately successful, it would be a game-changer.

"Let's not kid ourselves, if an amendment to the Iowa constitution is enacted that states 'There is no right to an abortion in Iowa,' that's the thing we've been worried about," McRoberts explained.

The constitutional amendment cleared the Legislature during this year's spring session. Republican lawmakers have insisted even if it wins final approval, it does not prevent a woman's right to choose, but McRoberts argued the plan's language makes it clear the right would be taken away.


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