Iowa House Democrats introduce constitutional amendments to protect abortion access, expand reproductive rights

After missing major legislative deadlines the bills aren’t expected to go far, however, Democrats say they want to make send “a loud and clear message” to Republicans.


Jerod Ringwald

House minority leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Polk, speaks with reporters after the 2023 Condition of the State at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

Liam Halawith, Politics Editor

Iowa House Democrats called for protections for abortion access and reproductive rights in the Iowa Constitution on Monday

One of the four pieces of introduced legislation would offer an amendment to the Iowa Constitution. The resolutions are set to be read and introduced to the Iowa House this week, according to Democrats.

However, it is unlikely they will be brought for consideration this session after missing the legislative deadline to be reported out of their originating committees.

House Democrats leader Jennifer Konfrst, a Democrat from Windsor Heights, said that despite missing the deadline other legislative procedures could be taken to pass the legislation — including adding the text to an appropriations bill or suspending the bodies rules and voting on the bills.

The bills would accomplish a laundry list of policy goals for the Democrats if passed, including:

  • Making over-the-counter birth control pills available at Iowa pharmacies.
  • Guaranteeing the right to an abortion by adding it as a protected right in the Iowa Constitution up until fetal viability.
  • Extending Medicaid coverage for mothers to 12 months after they give birth.
  • Expanding and reestablishing Medicaid family planning programs.

Democrats said the bills would send a loud and clear message to GOP lawmakers that Iowans support reproductive rights. An October 2022 Des Moines Register Iowa Poll found over 60 percent of Iowans support the right to abortion in all or most cases.

“Every Iowan deserves the right to make their own health care decisions, especially when it comes to their reproductive care and abortion,” Konfrst said. “Politicians have no place interfering in someone else’s decisions about when to start a family.”

However, the plan isn’t likely to gain support in the Republican-controlled statehouse. House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, has told reporters that GOP leadership is waiting for the Iowa Supreme Court to decide before considering new legislation.

The Iowa Legislature passed a bill in 2018 known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which experts say is long before most women know they are pregnant.

The Iowa Supreme court ruled in July 2022 that the Iowa constitution does not specifically protect a pregnant person’s right to an abortion, a reversal from their 2019 ruling that upheld a Polk County Judge’s ruling to strike down the fetal heartbeat bill.

“Iowans are sick and tired of politics as usual and a strong majority trust women to make their own health care decisions,” said Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque. “It’s time for the politicians in Des Moines to get out of the way and give Iowans the freedom to make their own health care decisions.”