Iowa court: Abortion not protected by state constitution


DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday paved the way for lawmakers to severely limit or ban abortion in the state, reversing a court ruling just four years ago that guaranteed the right to abortion under of the Iowa Constitution.

The court, now made up almost entirely of Republican appointees, found that a less conservative court had erroneously ruled that abortion is among the basic privacy rights guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution and statute. federal.

Friday’s ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion nationwide. If that happens, Iowa lawmakers could ban abortion without completing the long process of amending the state’s constitution.

The Iowa ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by abortion providers who challenged a 2020 law that required a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion. A judge who struck down the law cited the state’s 2018 High Court ruling. The judge also found that the law violated rules prohibiting the passage of bills with more than one subject.

The state Supreme Court remanded the delay case to the district court.

In its 2018 ruling, handed down by a 5-2 vote, the court said “autonomy and dominance over one’s body goes to the very heart of what it means to be free.”

The opinion published on Friday and written by Judge Edward Mansfield said the court was not bound by precedent, especially in cases assessing constitutional rights or in cases decided recently.

The inversion reflects a radical change in the composition of the court. Gov. Kim Reynolds has appointed four justices since 2017, and six of the court’s seven members have been appointed by Republican governors.

But Mansfield rejected the argument of jurists and law professors that changing opinions on such important issues in a short period of time fuels the idea that the courts are politicized.

“We disagree that every decision of a state Supreme Court is entitled to a minimum trial period before it can be challenged,” he said.

He said “courts must be free to correct their own mistakes when no one else can”.

Reynolds said in a statement that the decision is a “significant victory in our fight to protect the unborn child.” She and legislative leaders have not said whether they will call a special session this summer to pass a new abortion law.

Judge Brent Appel, the only Democrat appointed to the court, wrote a dissenting opinion saying “the right to reproductive autonomy should not be eviscerated by narrow textualism.”

Chief Justice Susan Christensen also disagreed with overturning the 2018 ruling, saying little had changed and since the Iowa Legislature began the process of amending the Iowa Constitution. Iowa to say that abortion is not a basic right, the people should decide the question.

“If the majority really wants to leave this issue to the will of the people, they should let the people speak through the ongoing constitutional amendment process,” she said.

If lawmakers approve the amendment next year, a vote could come as early as 2024.

Reynolds, an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, and Republicans in the Legislature have repeatedly said they hope the court will overturn the 2018 ruling, and GOP lawmakers have given the governor more control on the panel that chooses nominations for positions on the tribunal.

The 2018 ruling made Iowa the sixth state – along with Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Montana and Minnesota – where abortion rights have been recognized by the state high court.

As in Iowa, Republicans control the legislatures and governorates of Florida and Montana, where GOP leaders have been blocked from enacting abortion bans that could go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its ruling. historic decision of 1973 and entrusted decision-making power to the state government.

In Montana, a challenge to abortion restrictions that could test the high court’s opinion is before the Supreme Court.

In Iowa, Reynolds wavered on questions of which exceptions she would accept. She said last month she was ‘proud of the legislation she signed into law in 2018’, including banning abortions once heart activity is detected, as early as six weeks and often before many women do. know they are pregnant. The measure included exceptions to protect the life of the mother and pregnancies resulting from incest or rape.

Yet, more recently, it has refrained from specifying similar exceptions. “I’m not going to set any parameters,” she told reporters.

Data from the Iowa Department of Public Health shows there were 4,058 abortions in Iowa in 2020 – 835 surgical abortions and 3,222 by medication. This was an increase from the previous year when 3,566 abortions were reported. Iowa averaged just under 3,500 abortions per year from 2015 to 2019.

Court documents show that Planned Parenthood performs about 95% of abortions in Iowa. Surgical and medical abortions can be obtained at clinics in Des Moines and Iowa City. Medical abortions are offered at other clinics, including Ames, Council Bluffs, and Sioux City.

ABC News

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