Courts thwart abortion ban in Iowa and other GOP-led states

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — With a staunch anti-abortion Republican governor and large GOP legislative majorities, Iowa would appear poised to ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

There’s just one catch: a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that established the right to abortion under the state constitution.

“I don’t know if the people of Iowa know that things aren’t going to change immediately if Roe. v. Wade is overturned,” said state Rep. Sandy Salmon, a Republican and northern farm executive. —eastern Iowa which has made abortion restrictions a cornerstone of its five legislative terms.

The supreme courts of a handful of states, including others controlled by Republicans, have recognized the right to abortion. But in no state is the problem more immediate than Iowa, where Republicans are calling for a state high court with new conservative justices to overturn a decision made just four years ago.

The Iowa court ruling, expected in weeks, is an example of the complexities looming in states if the US Supreme Court overturns its 1973 decision who legalized abortion nationwide. Specifically, it highlights the inevitable clash between new abortion bans being prepared in anticipation of Roe’s overthrow and state constitutions.

“There are states where this is to some degree unheard of and an issue that state courts will likely have to deal with,” said Helene Krasnoff, vice president of public policy, litigation and law for advocates. abortion rights Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “But it’s a problem that’s present in Iowa right now.”

Iowa Supreme Court ruling under review struck down 2017 law signed by the Governor at the time. Terry Branstad forcing a woman to wait 72 hours before having an abortion. The court ruled 5 to 2 that an abortion is a fundamental right protected by the state constitution’s guarantee of liberty.

“Self-reliance and dominance over one’s body goes to the very heart of what it means to be free,” wrote then-Chief Justice Mark Cady, who died in 2019. “The concept of ordered freedom is implicit in the ability to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy.

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Since that decision, Branstad’s successor, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, has signed other restrictions, including banning abortion once heart activity is detected in the embryo. and requiring a 24-hour waiting period. Both measures were overturned by the state district court. Reynolds appealed the waiting period decision to the Iowa Supreme Court last year.

In the years following Cady’s notice, Reynolds appointed four of the seven members of the tribunal. The Republican-controlled legislature has also given him more control over the selection process for the panel that recommends potential nominees.

Sally Frank, a professor at Drake University Law School, said if the court were to overturn a law established only four years ago, it would “make a decision here even more political than the Supreme Court of the United States” .

Still, abortion opponents have argued that court rulings in half a dozen states, including Iowa, are examples of laws improperly made by judges rather than elected officials.

“This case presents an opportunity for the Iowa Supreme Court to return the matter to the people to decide through their elected representatives in the Legislative Assembly,” said Mallory Carroll, spokeswoman for anti-abortionist Susan B. Anthony List.

Polls indicate support for maintaining the legality of abortion. The Des Moines Register Iowa poll found in September that 57% favored keeping abortion legal in most or all cases, compared to 38% who said it should be illegal in most or all. all cases. According to AP VoteCast, a 2020 voter survey, 65% of Iowa voters said the U.S. Supreme Court should let Roe v. Wade as is, while a third said it should be called off.

Reynolds said 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 before many women know they are pregnant. . While the measure included exceptions to protect the life of the mother and for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape, Reynolds recently refused to endorse any exceptions.

“I’m not going to set parameters,” she told reporters last week. “We have a decision in the Iowa Supreme Court and we’ll wait and see what they do, and it will actually affect our next steps.”

The Supreme Courts of Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Montana and Minnesota have ruled that their constitutions protect the right to abortion. Among them, Republicans hold the legislative majorities and governorships in Florida and Montana.

In Montana, a challenge to abortion restrictions is before the state supreme courts.

Majority Republicans in the Kansas Legislature seek to overturn a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that declared abortion access a ‘fundamental right’ with a referendum on the August primary ballot to amend the state constitution.

Republicans in Iowa are also pursuing a constitutional amendment that specifies that the state constitution does not recognize, grant or guarantee the right to abortion. The amendment could not prevent the legislature from enacting a legal right to abortion, but would present an obstacle to any court weighing what the state would be required to enforce.

The measure needs a second approval in the Legislature and will likely be introduced next year, said Salmon, the GOP state legislator. If approved, it will go before voters, likely in 2024.

It was the removal of the abortion guarantee in the 2018 court ruling that would pave the way for lawmakers to ban the procedure, Salmon’s ultimate goal.

“That means abortion would not be a service offered in this state,” Salmon said.


Associated Press polling reporter Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this story.


This version corrects the Susan B. Anthony List spokeswoman’s last name to Carroll instead of Clark.


This story has been corrected to show that abortion restriction challenges only come before the Montana Supreme Court and to show Krasnoff’s correct spelling.

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