Agreement was struck between Republican Sen. Jake Chapman and Democrat Sen. Claire Celsi during committee debate on Senate Joint Resolution 9. Both senators pledged they would continue fighting the abortion issue. Chapman said Republicans will continue to fight to protect the lives of Iowans, born and unborn, while Celsi said the Democrats would continue to fight for legal abortion.
The resolution proposes an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that says there is no right to an abortion or required funding of abortion in the Iowa Constitution. It passed 10-5.
“Clearly our friends in the Iowa GOP are frustrated by their lack of progress in Iowa’s courts while their frivolous and unconstitutional abortion bills are mowed over one by one,” Celsi said. “Historically constitutional amendments are meant to confer rights, not take them away. I’m here to say that we’re not going away. We’re not backing down when it comes to fighting for reproductive rights here in Iowa.”
Celsi said the decision to become a parent should be between a woman and her doctor.
“I can’t pretend to know every women’s thoughts when they’re making that decision, but what I do know is I trust women to make their own decision about their own lives and their own body,” she said. “Those opposing reproductive health care in this state have made it clear that they are going to derail these rights and can take away a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion in our state. I find that offensive.”
Fellow Democrat Sen. Pam Jochum said in her opinion the constitutional amendment would be unconstitutional at the federal level due to Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause.
Celsi spoke again after that, asking what would happen to a baby after he or she is born.
“Are we going to take away their SNAP and their Medicaid,” she asked. “Are we going to take away their dad’s shoulder injury payments and worker’s compensation? Are we going to under-fund their school? I think we have a clear mandate from the people to take care of the babies that are already here.”
Chapman addressed Jochum’s concern by pointing to language passed in Tennessee. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take that case in October of 2018. He disagrees it’d be an unconstitutional constitutional amendment.
“What this amendment does is address judicial tyranny frankly,” he said. “We have a Supreme Court who has overstepped their judicial responsibility. Sen. Celsi pointed out historics on constitutional history. The constitution has been very difficult to amend and to change. But yet with the stroke of a pen we have a Supreme Court justice changing the very context and meaning of our constitution.”
Chapman used the opinion authored by Chief Justice Mark Cady that stated Iowa’s Constitution offers a fundamental right to an abortion as evidence. The Republican senator read a portion of Cady’s ruling.
“Our constitution recognizes the ever-evolving nature of society, and thus, our inquiry cannot be cabined within the limited vantage point of the past,” Chapman read. “That’s judicial activism at its finest and they arrogantly put that forward.
“I would just say that Justice Cady relied on Article 1 Section 6 and Section 9 of the constitution to come up with this fabricated right — not just a right, but a fundamental right to an abortion. I’d urge my colleagues on the other side who oppose this to please read Section 6 and Section 9 and show me where a right to an abortion, let alone a fundamental right to an abortion, is.”
In September of 1857 those provisions which are now used to present a right to an abortion were put in place. Six months later, Chapman said, the Iowa legislature passed a ban on all abortion except for instances involving the life of the mother.
“This amendment restores the legislative authority, the enumerated powers we have as a legislative body to make these decisions,” Chapman said. “Let me just make a clear message to the general public. We just heard the opposition say that they’re not going to stop.
“Let me tell you that we will not stop until we are saving the life of every Iowan. That is our constitutional duty as legislators to protect and defend Iowans both in the womb and outside of the womb.”
Every Democrat Senator — Tony Bisignano, Jim Lykam, Todd Taylor, Celsi and Jochum — voted against the resolution.