Letter from Rep. Christina Bohannan: Iowa’s proposed abortion and gun amendments are extreme and dangerous

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Christina Bohannan — Abbie Shucard

By Christina Bohannan, State Representative, Iowa House District 85; Law professor, University of Iowa

Despite the pandemic, and amid concerns about violence surrounding the presidential inauguration, it is critical that Iowans realize what is happening in our State Capitol and take action.

This morning, subcommittees in the Iowa House of Representatives passed two constitutional amendments on to committee. One would strip away the fundamental right to obtain an abortion under our state constitution. The other would add a supercharged version of the Second Amendment to the state constitution.

These are not just any bills — they are constitutional amendments. And they are pretty extreme. The abortion amendment does not just put some limits on the right to abortion — it eliminates the state constitutional right altogether. Given the current composition of the U.S. Supreme Court, it is not far-fetched to think the court could overrule Roe v. Wade, which would make the state constitutional right the last resort.

Likewise, the proposed gun rights amendment is not just a state version of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment (which many states have). It is a more extreme gun rights amendment, an outlier that only three other states have adopted. It would apply “strict scrutiny” to “any and all restrictions” on gun rights. If passed, this amendment would threaten to invalidate many sensible laws, from existing laws like the law prohibiting felons from having guns, to modest proposals like background checks and red-flag laws. States that have adopted “strict scrutiny” language have seen costly legal battles to preserve common-sense gun laws, and some prosecutors have declined to enforce them.

A demonstrator holds a sign referencing the Iowa state motto during a pro-choice rally on the University of Iowa Pentacrest, Friday, May 17, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Perhaps Iowa truly has moved this far to the right, but I am not convinced. The recent attack on our nation’s capitol is a grim reminder of the consequences of extreme politics and the need for unity. I do not believe Iowans are ready to repudiate a proud history of political moderation and common sense.

Democrats and Republicans should come together to support a person’s fundamental right to decide what happens to her own body. We can also unite against an extreme gun amendment, even though many support a basic right of gun ownership, as I do. Please reach out to state legislators and talk to your friends in other districts. Write letters to the editor in newspapers across the state. Post far and wide on social media. Let’s unite around common-sense values and defeat these bills together.

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