One of the most intriguing parts of last Friday’s pro-life debriefing that followed the hearing on Iowa’s Heartbeat law was talk of a constitutional amendment addressing abortion in Iowa.

Martin Cannon, the lawyer defending the Heartbeat law in court, said an ideal amendment would be neutral.

“Just a constitutional amendment that simply says our constitution doesn’t either prohibit abortion or grant a right to an abortion,” Cannon said.

“It just says nothing — that’s all we need. And it’d be bulletproof.”

Pro-life advocates have longed for a Personhood amendment to the Iowa Constitution. But a neutrality amendment brings the issue into the legislature and out of the courts.

“If the constitution doesn’t mandate it, the people get to decide it,” Cannon said. “Constitutional restrictions really take freedom away from the electorate. Why should we take something out of the discussion when it belongs in the debate?

“If something is not prohibited or mandated in the constitution, the legislature can pass a law banning it today, pass a law granting it tomorrow and then ban it the next day. That’s self-governance. That’s what we need to do. That’s what Justice Scalia was very big on.”

Another bonus of a neutrality amendment should be an easy path to passage. Cannon said any legislator who voted for the 20-week abortion ban or the Heartbeat bill should vote for the amendment. And, he said, some who didn’t vote for the abortion bans should still support a neutrality amendment.

“All it says is we want to govern ourselves through our representatives,” he said. “A neutrality amendment I don’t believe would be subject to reversal by the Iowa Supreme Court or the federal Supreme Court. An amendment that a woman can’t have an abortion can be stricken until Roe and Casey are reversed. Why would we do that to ourselves?”

There could be a legal challenge to an amendment, but Cannon said arguing against what the constitution says would be incredibly tough.

“The people are the ultimate authority and the constitution is the law of the land,” he said. “If the constitution says the sun rises in the west, then it rises in the west. You don’t go to court and say ‘but judge, the sun rises in the east.’ You don’t get to do that. The constitution creates the reality.”

Pro-lifers who advocate for a Personhood amendment may not prefer that logic, but it’s an avenue for consideration.

“It just protects you from renegade judges,” Cannon said. “It doesn’t matter so much if the legislature does something boneheaded because the next legislature can fix it. But when the court does something boneheaded, you’re stuck with it. That’s why they need to respect the limitations of their role and that’s what they’re not doing.”

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall