The Iowa Supreme Court has reversed its own decision from four years ago and found there is no fundamental right to abortion in the state constitution. With this ruling, Iowa lawmakers could potentially move forward enacting pro-life laws, or ban abortion altogether if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. Additionally, it put a 72-hour waiting period law back into effect.
In 2017, the 72-hour waiting period was ruled constitutional by a district judge, though Planned Parenthood (Baby Killers) and the ACLU announced their intentions to appeal that decision. The next year, the state Supreme Court ruled that abortion is a right in the state constitution. But within a year, four new justices had been appointed to the court, and 60 Iowa legislators asked for that decision to be overturned.
Then, in 2020, Iowa lawmakers passed a 24-hour waiting period law, which was blocked by a lower court. The challenge to that decision eventually gave the state Supreme Court the ability to make this ruling.
House Speaker Pat Grassley celebrated the ruling in a statement, saying, “As we work to understand the full impact of this decision, Iowans can be assured that Iowa House Republicans are strongly pro-life and remain committed to protecting the unborn and providing additional support for new mothers.”
Governor Kim Reynolds also approved of the ruling with a statement released on Twitter. “Today’s ruling is a significant victory in our fight to protect the unborn. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed its earlier 2018 decision, which made Iowa the most abortion-friendly state in the country,” she wrote. “Every life is sacred and should be protected, and as long as I’m governor that is exactly what I will do.”
Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Martin Cannon noted in an email the pro-life legal organization’s involvement in the case, calling it “a huge victory for Iowa’s pro-life movement in which the Thomas More Society has been very active,” adding that the organization “has also been very involved in advising the legislature in drafting and passing the 24-hour waiting period that is at the heart of today’s ruling.”
Though the court ruled that there is not a constitutional right to abortion, it did not decide what the new state’s standards could be. “Although we overrule (the 2018 decision), and thus reject the proposition that there is a fundamental right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution subjecting abortion regulation to strict scrutiny, we do not at this time decide what constitutional standard should replace it,” Justice Edward Mansfield, who wrote the majority opinion, said.
Currently, abortion is prohibited after 20 weeks in the state. Lawmakers tried to enact a heartbeat law in 2019, but that had previously been struck down as well.
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Author: Cassy Fiano-Chesser
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