Iowa Supreme Court Rejects Law Restricting Abortion, Keeping the Procedure Legal

by Joshua Brown
abortion limits

Iowa’s Supreme Court made a rare 3-3 decision, opting not to reinstate a law that would have imposed significant restrictions on abortion in the state. This decision is a setback for Republican Governor Kim Reynolds and means that Iowa, for the time being, will not be joining other conservative states with stringent abortion laws.

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling from 2019 that had blocked the law. It is worth noting that this ruling comes approximately a year after the same court, along with the U.S. Supreme Court, concluded that women do not possess an inherent constitutional right to abortion.

The blocked law sought to ban abortions once cardiac activity could be detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy, a stage when many women are unaware of their pregnancy.

Justice Thomas Waterman, writing on behalf of the three justices who denied the state’s request to reinstate the law, stated that granting the request would mean circumventing the legislature, altering the court’s standard for reviewing laws, and dissolving an injunction.

The Iowa Supreme Court comprises seven members, but one justice opted not to participate due to her previous association with an abortion provider’s law firm.

While the court’s decision maintains the block on the law, it does not prevent Reynolds and lawmakers from enacting a new law with similar provisions. The decision made on Friday primarily pertains to the procedural aspect, as the appeal in 2022 against the 2019 ruling was deemed untimely.

In Iowa, abortions are legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, which resulted in the transfer of authority over abortion regulations to individual states, most Republican-led states have significantly restricted access to abortion.

Despite the state and federal court decisions, including Roe, affirming a woman’s constitutional right to abortion at the time, Reynolds signed the law in 2018. However, Planned Parenthood challenged the law in court, leading to a state judge blocking its implementation the following year. Reynolds chose not to appeal the decision at that time.

In a separate case, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned its previous opinion from last year, which had affirmed that the state constitution recognized a fundamental right to abortion. Just one week after that reversal, Roe was overturned, prompting Reynolds to attempt to dissolve the 2019 decision.

However, a state judge ruled that she lacked the authority to do so, prompting Reynolds to appeal to the state’s Supreme Court, which now has a more conservative composition compared to when the law was initially passed. Reynolds appointed five of the court’s seven members.

Although referred to as a “fetal heartbeat” law, the legislation does not accurately align with medical science. When advanced technology can detect the initial visual flutter, the embryo has not yet developed into a fetus and does not possess a heart. An embryo is classified as a fetus eight weeks after fertilization.

The Iowa law includes exceptions for medical emergencies, such as situations posing a threat to the mother’s life, cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about abortion restrictions

What was the decision made by the Iowa Supreme Court regarding the abortion law?

The Iowa Supreme Court declined to reinstate a law that would have imposed significant restrictions on abortion in the state, thereby keeping the procedure legal.

How did the court reach this decision?

The court upheld a 2019 district court ruling that had blocked the abortion law. In a rare split decision of 3-3, the justices maintained the block, citing concerns about legislating from the bench and changing the court’s review standards.

Can the law be passed again with similar provisions?

Yes, the court’s decision does not prevent Governor Kim Reynolds and lawmakers from passing a new law with similar provisions. However, the 2022 appeal against the 2019 ruling was deemed untimely, so a new law would need to be drafted and introduced.

Are there any time limits for legal abortions in Iowa?

Abortions remain legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. The blocked law would have banned abortions once cardiac activity could be detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

How does this decision relate to the broader abortion landscape in the United States?

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, granting authority over abortion regulations to states, most Republican-led states have enacted severe restrictions on abortion. The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision is significant within this context as it maintains access to legal abortions in the state.

More about abortion restrictions

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Jake22 June 17, 2023 - 1:17 am

iowa should’ve banned abortion, its a shame they didnt. life begins at conception, and they’re just letting it go. terrible decision.

JohnSmith June 17, 2023 - 1:43 am

this is crazy! iowa is going backward on abortion rights. its so unfair for women. what are they thinking?!

JaneDoe June 17, 2023 - 8:41 am

wow, i cant believe they let the law slide! finally some good news for women’s rights in iowa. lets hope they dont try to pass it again!

Lizzy88 June 17, 2023 - 10:10 am

yay for the iowa supreme court! they did the right thing by keeping abortion legal. we need more courts like this standing up for women’s choices.


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