Iowa Supreme Court Set to Revisit Abortion Rights: A Key Battle for Reproductive Freedom in the State

Des Moines, Iowa – The Iowa Supreme Court is once again facing the task of determining the extent of abortion rights protected by the state’s constitution. This marks the third time in as many years that the court has grappled with this issue.

In 2022, the court ruled that there is no “fundamental right” to abortion, overturning its previous 2018 precedent. However, the following year, the court was deadlocked in a 3-3 vote on whether to revive the state’s six-week “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban. The ban had been passed by the Legislature in 2018 but was blocked by a judge from taking effect. The tie vote resulted in the law being permanently enjoined.

In response to this outcome, Governor Kim Reynolds called for a special session of the Iowa Legislature to swiftly pass a new ban on abortions after approximately the sixth week of pregnancy. Once again, the ban was blocked by a judge in Polk County, who granted Planned Parenthood a temporary injunction. Now, the Supreme Court is preparing to hear the state’s appeal of this ruling.

The case has not yet been scheduled for oral arguments, but all parties involved have submitted their final written briefs. The positions taken by each side are now clear. Governor Reynolds argues that the Iowa Constitution does not guarantee any special protections for the right to an abortion. She believes that as long as the state can provide a rational basis for a restriction, such as the preservation of life, the law is constitutional.

Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, contends that the 2023 law prohibiting most abortions after doctors detect cardiac activity in the embryo should be sent back to the district court for further consideration. They argue that the district court order that the state is appealing is not a final ruling but a preliminary injunction. Thus, they believe an appeal on the merits of the law should wait until the district court process is complete.

Planned Parenthood also favors the “undue burden” test as the legal standard for evaluating abortion laws in Iowa. They argue that this standard strikes a balance between the state’s interest in protecting unborn life and a woman’s right to choose. In contrast, the state argues that there is no need for a special tier of scrutiny and advocates for applying a rational basis under established constitutional tiers.

As the Supreme Court prepares to make its decision, the fate of abortion rights in Iowa hangs in the balance. The outcome of this case could have significant implications for reproductive rights not only in Iowa but potentially across the country.