Sixty Iowa legislators have asked the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn a 2018 ruling that declared abortion is a fundamental right found in the state’s constitution.
Alliance Defending Freedom, along with the Iowa-based The Family Leader, filed a brief with the court on behalf of 22 senators and 38 House members (all pro-life Republicans) arguing the ruling was wrong for several reasons. Elissa Graves, attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, said the 2018 court had “grossly overstepped its authority for forbidding the legislature from enacting reasonable abortion regulations that are supported by the people of Iowa and the U.S. Supreme Court. Nothing in the Iowa Constitution’s text, structure, history, or tradition suggests that abortion is a fundamental right; therefore, the court must act upon its duty to overturn ‘clearly erroneous’ precedent.”
The Associated Press claims that in 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court was “more centrist” and is “now dominated by Republican appointees.” Pro-life Governor Kim Reynolds appointed four justices to join the two Republican-appointed justices that dissented from the 2018 ruling. Only one Democratic appointee still remains on the court — the only remaining justice who ruled that abortion is a state constitutional right.
In June 2020, Reynolds signed into law a bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can undergo an abortion. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland sued the state and a judge struck down the law in June 2021, citing the 2018 ruling that the so-called right to abortion exists in the state constitution. That law was a last-minute amendment to a different bill on a different matter, leading the judge to also rule that the legislators who passed the waiting period bill ignored a state law that prevents the passage of bills that include two or more subjects.
Also in 2018, Iowa enacted a ban on abortion once a preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected. That law was struck down by a judge in January 2019, citing the 2018 ruling. Pro-life Iowa legislators know that Roe v. Wade will soon be challenged in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case regarding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion restriction. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the decision on the legality of abortion will return to the states. Since the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that abortion is a right under the state constitution, without Roe v. Wade in place, abortion will remain legal in the state. If the 2018 ruling is overturned as requested, it would pave the way for abortion to be further restricted in Iowa.
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