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Law professor explains abortion bill and how it could lead to a true ban

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Sally Frank
Sally Frank of the Drake University Law School

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - A constitutional amendment denying Iowa women the right to an abortion is moving through the state legislature this month.

Republicans have said the purpose of the amendment --which passed the House Wednesday night-- is to overrule a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision against a 72-hour waiting period for abortions. The court also declared there is a fundamental right to abortion in that case.

What would happen after that decision is overruled by a constitutional amendment has been hotly debated by the two parties.

"They want to get rid of that ruling so they can nibble --go as far as they possibly can towards banning," Sally Frank said, a professor at Drake University Law School.

Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, has said this amendment "would not stop one abortion in Iowa". And that its true intent is to preserve Iowa's ban on abortions after 20 weeks and stop taxpayer-funded abortions.

Frank agrees to an extent; saying this amendment purely opens the door to aggressive abortion laws and doesn't ban the procedure on its own. However she says pro-choice Iowans should be very worried about the crushing laws that could follow.

"Until and unless Roe v. Wade is overturned, they want to keep passing as many limits as they can and hope that the court never finds an undue burden," Frank said.

Frank says Republicans would be able to pass waiting period requirements and possibly even a fetal heartbeat bill if the amendment passed.

She does not believe this is in an attempt to preserve Iowa's ban on abortions after 20 weeks because that law has not been appealed or ruled unconstitutional.

What Democrats are perhaps most worried about is the potential for this amendment if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood vs. Casey; the landmark supreme court decisions which say states cannot make legislation that create an "undue burden" on women seeking an abortion.

If that were to happen, Iowa would be easily positioned to all-out ban the procedure.

"They're part of the movement that want Roe overturned. And why do people want Roe overturned? So they can ban abortion," Frank said.

The current constitutional amendment is now in the Iowa Senate for debate and a likely vote. It would need to pass both houses of the legislature again in the 2023 legislative session before finally being ratified by the voters.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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