Iowa High Court Reverses Its Own 2018 Ruling Recognizing Right to Abortion

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that considered abortion rights protected by the state constitution.

The reason for Friday’s reversal is only apparent because of the nominations of four justices by anti-abortion Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), were placed on the state’s highest bench over the past five years. Six justices out of seven overall were appointed by Republicans.

The ruling does not render abortion illegal in Iowa. Federal standards and other laws remain in effect. But it does remove the previously held recognitionAccording to the court, abortion is a fundamental right of the state constitution.

This ruling will allow Iowa Republican lawmakers to place more restrictions on the procedure in the future, in the event that the federal Supreme Court decides to overturn it. Roe v. WadeLater in the summer

“We don’t know yet what [Republicans will]However, you can propose laws that were previously blocked [by state courts] have included a 72-hour waiting period and a ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill,” Des Moines Register politics reporter Katie Akin observed.

The 5-2 ruling dealt with a case that involved a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion. This law was passed by Republicans in 2020. A lower court ruled that the restriction was unconstitutional. In reversing its 2018 ruling, the state Supreme Court sends the case back to the lower court to reconsider, based on the new precedent that says the state constitution doesn’t recognize and protect abortion rights.

Justice Edward Mansfield, writing the opinion for the court, said he and his like-minded colleagues “[rejected] the proposition that there is a fundamental right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution subjecting abortion regulation to strict scrutiny.” However, Mansfield said that the court would not produce any new guidelines for the time being, noting that the federal Supreme Court was set to rule on the issue itself.

Governor Susan Christensen also appointed Chief Justice Susan Christensen. Reynolds, dissented from the ruling, stating that the majority overturned the court’s previous precedent at the first opportunity it had. The court was acting too quickly, disregarding the standard of stare decisis — the idea of respecting previous precedents established by courts.

“Out of respect for stare decisis, I cannot join the majority’s decision to overrule” the previous precedent, Christensen wrote in her opinion.

The chief justice also acknowledged that the only reason the previous ruling was reversed was a change of its ideology. She said that Friday’s ruling would raise questions about the legitimacy of the court.

“This rather sudden change in a significant portion of our court’s composition is exactly the sort of situation that challenges so many of the values that stare decisis promotes concerning stability in the law, judicial restraint, the public’s faith in the judiciary, and the legitimacy of judicial review,” Christensen said.

“This is not to say that we may never overrule precedent that is clearly incorrect because we are worried about the public’s perception of our decision in relation to the change in our court’s makeup. … But we must only use this power when there is a ‘special justification’ over and above the belief ‘that the precedent was wrongly decided,’” Christensen wrote, quoting previous rulings that established how courts were meant to treat matters relating to stare decisis.

Critics blasted the court’s decision to overturn a precedent and the manner in which it was done.

“This decision was made possible by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ addition of Republican justices to the court — nothing more, nothing less,” wrote Slate senior writer Mark Joseph Stern.

“Today’s ruling is a step backwards for Iowa,” Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Konfrst said. “Like a large majority of Iowans, I believe in reproductive freedom. I will continue to fight like hell to ensure every family has access to safe, legal abortion.”