Iowa Supreme Court Topples State’s Constitutional Abortion Protections

By: - June 17, 2022 12:00 am

In the Iowa Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion, giving state lawmakers license to ban the procedure. Charlie Neibergall/The Associated Press

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion, giving state lawmakers broad leeway to ban the procedure.

The ruling came in a case that challenged an Iowa law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before a person could receive an abortion. That law now will be allowed to take effect.

All we hold today is that the Iowa Constitution is not the source of a fundamental right to an abortion necessitating a strict scrutiny standard of review for regulations affecting that right,” the court ruled.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds praised the ruling, noting it was a significant change from four years ago. “The Iowa Supreme Court reversed its earlier 2018 decision, which made Iowa the most abortion-friendly state in the country,” she wrote in a statement.

But state House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst said in a video statement, “Make no mistake, abortion access in America and in Iowa is in crisis.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which supports abortion access, previously had listed Iowa, along with Alaska, Kansas, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Montana, as states with implied constitutional abortion rights, based on prior court decisions.

In 2018, Iowa’s high court ruled, in a case involving a 72-hour waiting period, that the state constitution did protect the right to abortion.

That same year, Reynolds signed what was at the time the strictest abortion ban in the country, prohibiting abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. That ban remains blocked by a state court. Texas has begun enforcing a six-week abortion ban, and Oklahoma has a near-total ban on abortions.

Since the Iowa high court’s previous decision, Reynolds has appointed four of its seven justices.

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.