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Iowa Supreme Court says no right to abortion in state constitution, reversing its own 2018 decision

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In a 182-page opinion released this morning, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution does not include a ‘fundamental right’ to abortion. This decision revives a law requiring women to wait 24 hours after an initial appointment before getting an abortion, as reported by Reuters.

In a majority opinion, Justice Edward M. Mansfield stated that the previous ruling establishing a constitutional right to an abortion inadequately recognized the potential impact of future human lives and disagreed with the views of the dissenting opinion that the state lacks a legitimate interest in protecting potential life before viability.

In the 2018 ruling, authored by Chief Justice Mark Cady and overturned by the Iowa Supreme Court today, the court asserted that “autonomy and dominion over one’s body are fundamental to the concept of freedom.”

In 2020, Iowa’s pro-life Governor, Kim Reynolds, signed the 24-hour waiting period. As the Iowa Supreme Court observed, on 23 June 2020, before HF594 was enacted into law, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and its medical director, Dr Jill Meadows, filed a petition in Johnson County District Court challenging the 24-hour waiting period.

In elucidating the rationale behind the dearth of precedential weight accorded to the 2018 ruling, Justice Mansfield posited that

The 2018 decision, PPH II, was explicitly founded upon the concept of a “living” constitution. To the extent that PPH II viewed constitutional interpretation as an evolutionary process rather than a search for fixed meaning, it is challenging to argue that the evolutionary process had to end as soon as PPH II was decided. Does the Iowa Constitution retain the capacity to “live” until 2018, at which point it must cease to do so?

In a statement, Governor Reynolds expressed her support for the court’s decision.

The ruling represents a significant victory in the ongoing struggle to safeguard the rights of the unborn. The Iowa Supreme Court overturned its previous 2018 ruling, which had made Iowa the most pro-abortion state in the country. Every life is sacred and should be protected, and as long as I remain in office, I will ensure that this is the case.

The Iowa Supreme Court has acknowledged the impending consideration of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case by the United States Supreme Court, stating that it is aware of the significance of this case.

The ruling today stated that while the state of Iowa is committed to interpreting the Constitution independently of the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the Federal Constitution, the opinion (or opinions) in the case may provide insights that the state currently lacks. Consequently, the court’s decision today is that the Iowa Constitution does not establish a fundamental right to abortion that would necessitate a strict scrutiny standard of review for regulations affecting that right.

The ruling of today has resulted in the return of the case pertaining to the waiting period to the district court.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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