Iowa Gov. calls lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session to enact “legislation that addresses abortion and protects unborn lives”

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-life Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced today that “she will convene the General Assembly of Iowa on Tuesday, July 11, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. for a special session with the sole purpose of enacting legislation that addresses abortion and protects unborn lives.”

Gov. Reynolds explained that “I believe the pro-life movement is the most important human rights cause of our time. Not only will I continue to fight against the inhumanity of abortion, but I will also remain committed to supporting women in planning for motherhood, promoting fatherhood and parenting, and continuing policies that encourage strong families. These are the most essential building blocks of our society, and they are what will keep the foundation of our state and country strong for generations to come.” 

On June 15, the lowa Supreme Court deadlocked 3-3 on the state’s 2018 Heartbeat Law meaning “the district court’s order is the final say on the matter, and the law will remain permanently blocked,” according to the Des Moines Register. The tie vote means abortion in the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy remains legal in Iowa.

As Gov. Reynolds said at the time,

“To say that today’s lack of action by the Iowa Supreme Court is a disappointment is an understatement. Not only does it disregard Iowa voters who elected representatives willing to stand up for the rights of unborn children, but it has sided with a single judge in a single county who struck down Iowa’s legislation based on principles that now have been flat-out rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no fundamental right to abortion and any law restricting it should be reviewed on a rational basis standard – a fact acknowledged today by three of the justices.  Still, without an affirmative decision, there is no justice for the unborn.”

She added,

“But the fight is not over. There is no right more sacred than life, and nothing more worthy of our strongest defense than the innocent unborn. We will work together to pass legislation that will protect life, support new mothers, and promote strong families in Iowa.” 

The Governor’s displeasure with the Court’s inaction was clear in her announcement today:

“In 2018, I proposed, the legislature passed, and I proudly signed into law legislation that protected unborn babies from abortion once a heartbeat was detectable. After years of litigation, the Iowa Supreme Court was split 3-3 last month in its opinion regarding whether a lower court’s injunction of the Fetal Heartbeat Law should be dissolved. This lack of action disregards the will of Iowa voters and lawmakers who will not rest until the unborn are protected by law. 

In a blistering dissent, Justice McDermott observed

My three colleagues who decline to grant the State’s writ of certiorari begin their opinion with the declaration, “This case is extraordinary,” and then proceed to explain why this case is so unextraordinary that we shouldn’t bother to exercise our discretion to decide it. Refusing to exercise our discretion to take on this case—more pointedly stated, ducking it—is, in my view, wrong. I join in full Justice McDonald’s opinion today, which spells out why we should grant the State’s writ of certiorari and apply the rational basis test. …

Last year, we were presented with an appeal challenging the constitutionality of a different statute regulating abortion, yet we failed to declare the constitutional standard that applied. This case again presented that same basic task. And for the second time in as many years, we’ve ducked it. It isn’t for us to dictate abortion policy in the state, but simply to interpret and apply the law as best we can in cases that come before us. We fail the parties, the public, and the rule of law in our refusal today to apply the law and decide this case.