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In Week 5 of the 2020 Legislative Session I moved legislation to protect the right to life with the Life Amendment, and the right to preserve life through stronger protections for our Second Amendment liberties.

On Wednesday, February 12th, the Life Amendment passed out of Judiciary on a party line vote. This amendment is needed to respond to the judicial overreach of the Iowa Supreme Court when they struck down our 72-hour waiting period and created a fundamental right to abortion, subject to strict scrutiny, in the Iowa Constitution. This ruling, which led to a lower court striking down our protections for unborn children once the heartbeat is detected, could result in taxpayer funded abortion and even abortion up until birth in Iowa.

The majority opinion that struck down our 72-hour waiting period used reasoning that challenges the very way our Republic functions. The Legislature makes laws and the Judiciary is supposed to interpret the law. Yet the Majority opinion stated that the Constitution should be interpreted not by what is written in it, but instead by the “current prevailing standards that mark the progress of a maturing society.” In rendering this ruling, they named themselves as the final arbiter in determining these standards. If this is the philosophy used to strike down laws passed by duly elected representatives of the people, while at the same time adding rights to the Constitution that are not there, without regard to what is actually written in our Constitution; then we are governed more by judges than by elected officials. This is the first reason we need the Life Amendment: to neutralize the judicial overreach of this ruling.

The second reason for the Life Amendment is that the strict scrutiny standard applied by the Iowa Supreme Court, which is the highest standard of judicial review, will likely result in all our protections for the unborn falling to court challenge. Our heartbeat protections have already fallen as a result of this ruling.  Our ban on abortions after 20 weeks could fall, as well as our prohibition against taxpayer funded abortions. The minority opinion of Justices Mansfield and Waterman in the case that struck down our 72-hour waiting period warned of this when they wrote, “I wonder if the majority is laying groundwork instead, perhaps a stepping stone toward a ruling that Iowa’s Medicaid program must fund abortions.”

The Life Amendment passed on the Senate floor the day after passing through the House Judiciary Committee. I am hopeful that the House will also pass the amendment. Ultimately, if the amendment is approved in two General Assemblies, the people of Iowa will make the final decision.

From the right to life to the right to defend life through protection of Second Amendment rights: this week I also moved HSB615 from sub-committee for consideration before the full Public Safety Committee. This bill would strengthen preemption by requiring that any political subdivision (city or county) that chooses to prohibit weapons in a building or structure must provide screening and armed security personnel to ensure the safety of citizens denied their Second Amendment rights. It would also strengthen protections for gun ranges that could be targeted for political reasons. Schools are not affected by this legislation.

Gun free zones and signs prohibiting weapons have never stopped sick individuals from shooting innocent people. Gun free zones stop law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons that could be used to stop mass shootings. It is not about the gun. It is about the character of the person holding the gun.  As we have seen recently in Texas, a gun can be used for evil, such as by the man that opened fire in a church, or a gun can be used for good, such as by a man in the same church that stopped the shooter and saved lives with one well-placed round from his weapon.

The process to enshrine 2nd Amendment rights in Iowa’s Constitution began last year under Republican leadership. The resolution must pass through one more General Assembly to be on the ballot for the people to decide in 2022. This amendment will help ensure that Iowa never becomes Virginia.

Steven Holt

Author: Steven Holt