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Iowa Supreme Court Rejects Fundamental Right to Abortion

Timothy Tai/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP, File

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state’s constitution does not include a fundamental right to abortion. The ruling was a reversal from a decision in 2018 that said Iowans have a right to abortion under the state’s constitution.


The decision from the Court came after Planned Parenthood challenged a 2020 law creating a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion in the state. The law was enjoined by a federal District Court judge.

USA Today-affiliated outlet the Des Moines Register reported that while the Iowa Supreme Court noted there is no fundemental right to abortion under the state’s constitution, it did not establish “what constitutional standard should replace it.”

The majority opinion said the court's previous ruling establishing a constitutional right to an abortion "insufficiently recognizes that future human lives are at stake.” It sent the case back to a lower court for reconsideration.

Planned Parenthood in its challenge to the waiting period argued that the law's passage had violated procedural rules and that it was an unconstitutional burden on women seeking abortions.

The composition of the Supreme Court has shifted since the 2018 decision, with Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, appointing four of the seven justices. 

While rejecting the finding of a state constitutional guarantee of the right to abortion, Friday's decision did not say what the new standard should be.

"Although we overrule (the 2018 decision), and thus reject the proposition that there is a fundamental right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution subjecting abortion regulation to strict scrutiny, we do not at this time decide what constitutional standard should replace it,"  Justice Edward Mansfield wrote in the majority opinion.


Pro-life GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a statement in response to the ruling .

“Today’s ruling is a significant victory in our fight to protect the unborn. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed its earlier 2018 decision, which made Iowa the most abortion-friendly state in the country," Reynolds said in her statement. "Every life is sacred and should be protected, and as long as I’m governor that is exactly what I will do.” 

A case currently under review by the Supreme Court involving a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. A leaked draft opinion from the case, published last month, showed the justices poised to overturn landmark case Roe v. Wade. A decision is expected in the coming weeks. 

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