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Previously in this session, and more accurately, the basic  “Life Amendment” proposal was titled  “Abortion Neutrality Amendment.”  The lead lobbying organization in support of it referred to it as such but is now referring to it as the “Protect Life Amendment.”

It does not do that, it does not protect one unborn life in and of itself although if ultimately passed it presumably would create a legal basis for the legislature to statutorily regulate abortion at least to the extent permitted under a federal constitutional regime if a legislature chooses to do so.

The Iowa wording eliminates any presumption that abortion must be funded by tax dollars which is what abortion advocates insist on when referring to abortion, which is an elective procedure that kills one patient as “health care.” But it should be well understood that the effect of the wording does not mandate any protection and implicitly permits the legislature to not regulate abortion and to fund it if it sees fit.

Referring to it as the Protect Life Amendment is then a PR ploy to some extent, the moniker is of mixed usefulness as a PR matter, and possibly counterproductive in an effort to achieve sufficient support for passage. ‘Abortion neutrality’ is more accurate, does not mislead pro-life support which is astute enough to know and support a key improvement over the current situation when they see it honestly portrayed.

Here is a link to proponent The Family Leader’s comments yesterday upon its passage (my comments continue below the link):


The proposed amendment reads: “Life. To defend the dignity of all human life and protect unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the point of birth, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”

The wording passed both houses of the Iowa legislature — it does not need to be signed by the governor as it is a proposed constitutional amendment.

It must pass a second round in both houses with identical wording in a subsequent legislative year.  The proposal is then presented to the people on a general election ballot.  If passed by those people voting, it becomes part of the Iowa Constitution.

It is hard to unpack the implications of the wording in this brief memo.

Proponents stated purpose leading up to this is that such an amendment is necessary to allow regulation of abortion after the Iowa Supreme Court found an unqualified right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution a few years ago. That is the effect of the just-passed wording but not necessarily the overarching perception because of its lack of a simple clarification as proponents in Tennessee did in their successful effort to make the concept part of their state constitution.

Repeating, the wording does not protect or require the protection of any lives in and of itself.  Nevertheless, I believe it will give the impression to most people that it is a right to life/anti-abortion/pro-life/ restoration amendment that will impress many (arguably most voters), to the detriment of its passage, that it disallows any right to abortion in and of itself. That misconstrues but may be controlling if too many people become fixated on so-called hard cases (aggravated by pro-abortion opposition and every media outlet in the state) without something to alleviate that tension.

Nothing in it assuages them or suggests the possibility of alleviating their fears (however misplaced, overwrought, ignorant) that the legislation is not an end of the right to abortion for any reason amendment.  People with such concerns are crucial to passage.

Tennessee included the clarification that “The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend or repeal statutes regarding abortion.”  That is what the effect of the Iowa wording is, but it was made clear to the people in Tennessee’s case leading to success.  It is more honest and I believe more passable as such. It should have been included.  Iowa had a compelling “focus group” to go by (Tennessee) and rejected its efficacy.

Of note is that the Iowa Supreme Court has undergone supposedly very significant personnel changes since their 2018 judicial atrocity finding a right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution. Why proponents have not been public, to my knowledge,   about the best pro-life legislation to put before this new court, short of an amendment, or any implications, I do not know. True, the Iowa Supreme Court can go back and forth on the issue, but so can a legislature under this amendment.

I support the concept of the amendment but I hope the Iowa wording is not a triumph of the desire to make a pro-life statement (which I believe undergirds changes made as compared to the successful Tennessee effort) rather than concentrating on making a difference. Sober analysis ought to be undertaken as to whether the Iowa wording, now half passed by this legislature, is handicapped to its detriment and what ought to be done.


Roger Mall, Davenport


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