By Dave Andrusko
Polk County District Judge Celene Gogerty, reiterating jurisdictional questions she raised at an October 28 hearing in Des Moines, “denied Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ request to remove a permanent injunction that bars enforcement of a state law that would make abortions illegal after about six weeks of pregnancy,” Rox Laird of Courthouse News reported. That means, for the time being, that abortion remains legal in Iowa until 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Gov. Reynolds said she would immediately appeal Monday’s verdict.
“I’m very disappointed in the ruling filed today by the district court, but regardless of the outcome, this case was always going to the Iowa Supreme Court,” the governor said in a statement following the ruling. “As the Iowa and U.S. Supreme Courts have made clear, there is no fundamental right to an abortion. The decision of the people’s representatives to protect life should be honored, and I believe the court will ultimately do so. As long as I’m Governor, I will continue to fight for the sanctity of life and for the unborn.”
The permanent injunction “was issued in 2019 based on the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling that there is a fundamental right to abortion under the Iowa Constitution,” Laird wrote. “But this June, the court reversed that decision just one week before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a nationwide right to abortion.”
Laird added, “With the door opened to reviving the ‘fetal heartbeat’ law, lawyers for Governor Reynolds filed a motion asking the trial court to lift the injunction, arguing that it has the authority to modify or vacate an injunction if there has been a substantial change in the facts or law.”
In her seventeen page decision, Judge Gogerty, in essence, argued her hands were tied—that she does not have the authority to dissolve the permanent injunction placed on the law by Judge Michael Hupper and allow the law to take effect.
“It has not been established that the court has any authority, inherent or based on the rules of civil procedure, which allows it to retain jurisdiction in order to dissolve the permanent injunction in this case,” she maintained. “Additionally, even if the court had jurisdiction to dissolve the permanent injunction, the State has failed to show that there has been a substantial change in the law under the Iowa Constitution that would change the circumstances.”
“The ban on nearly all abortions…would be an undue burden and, therefore, the statute would still be unconstitutional and void,” Judge Gogerty added.
At the October 28 hearing, Attorney Christopher Schandevel, representing the state, “argued that abortion in Iowa is now covered only by the lowest standard of legal protection, known as ‘rational basis.’ It requires a law to be upheld if there is a rational basis on which the Legislature could have thought it would serve legitimate state interests,” Stephen Gruber-Millery wrote for the Des Moines Register. “Because now that there is no fundamental right to an abortion in the state of Iowa’s constitution or the U.S. Constitution, now it is clear that strict scrutiny is no longer the test, and now that it’s clear that the viability line is no more, faithfully applying Iowa binding law requires the court to reach a different result.”
“Schandevel argued courts have an ‘inherent authority’ to alter and enforce permanent injunctions,” Gruber-Millery wrote.“He said that, because there has been a substantial change in the law since the 2019 decision, the court should remove the injunction. Bettis Austen [the ACLU of Iowa’s legal director and attorney for Planned Parenthood ] responded that this already-decided case was not the proper vehicle to decide a new legal standard for Iowa’s abortion laws.”