Just days after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on abortion rights in Iowa, Democrats in the state are sending out the message that other rights could be at risk.
The Iowa Supreme Court released a monumental decision on Friday in which the court found there was no state constitutional right to abortion. The ruling, which overturns a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling, opens the state to increased restrictions or a ban on abortion, depending on whether the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
This lawsuit could be a sign of things to come, some Democrats have warned. Marginalized communities — especially the LGBTQ+ community and communities of color — could have their rights taken away in court or by the Republican-controlled Statehouse.
That’s why making the state welcoming to all Iowans is a top campaign goal, gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear said at the weekend convention. Statehood of the State’s Democratic Party — and a goal rooted in Iowa’s equality history.
“We can make sure that all of our communities, wherever they come from…no matter what, everyone feels welcome in this state, everyone has a home, everyone has a path to success,” DeJear said. “We can do that in Iowa.”
Restricting access to abortion is a major political goal for Republicans in Iowa — the GOP-controlled state legislature was working on an amendment to the state constitution, reversing the old precedent of the Supreme Court of Iowa that she had a fundamental right to abortion. There haven’t been such significant restrictions on LGBTQ+ rights, but activists say Iowa’s new law banning transgender girls and women from playing on women’s sports teams in schools and colleges is a step towards the restriction of rights.
When the law was passed, Iowa Safe Schools communications director Damian Thompson said he expected to see new laws that harm transgender people.
“As we’ve seen in other states, attacking trans inclusion in sports is the first step,” Thompson said in an email. “Then the goal is to systematically marginalize trans children from other spheres, including but not limited to public accommodation, health care, and education.”
Candidate Ryan Melton, who is running against U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra in Iowa’s 4e District, spoke about the history of progressive values for LGBTQ+ issues at the Democratic state convention. One of his siblings is transgender, Melton said, and his family has been supportive of his brother — and politicians need to extend that same support to LGBTQ+ people through policy.
“There are a lot of people in the community who don’t have siblings or parents to lean on,” he said. “And we can’t completely replace that void. But we can certainly fight for them every day.
Proponents say other state legislation in recent years, such as one that restricted teaching on certain “dividing topics” in classrooms and the “Back the Blue” law that increased penalties for protest-related crimes are hurtful to Iowans of color.
Voting rights restrictions also disproportionately impact Iowans of color, advocates say. Iowa’s voter ID law, along with other recent changes to the state’s election processes, are making it harder to vote, advocates argued.
Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of state Joel Miller said most Iowans have gotten used to the state’s ID laws, which he supports, but the state still has a long way to go to make voting accessible. He proposed automatically registering Iowans to vote at age 17 when applying for a driver’s license.
Democratic candidates are bracing for a tough campaign season ahead of the November 8, 2022 election. Most state offices in Iowa are controlled by Republicans, as are both chambers of the Iowa Statehouse . The seats in the US Senate and three of the state’s four representative seats are held by Republicans, and election forecasters predict the lone Democrat – incumbent Representative Cindy Axne – could be in jeopardy.
To preserve those rights, Democrats have stressed the need to organize ahead of the general election.
“We can’t do it, me and Deidre, we need all your help here,” said Lieutenant Governor candidate Eric Van Lancker, DeJear’s running mate.