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Iowa Supreme Court: Abortion Not Protected by State Constitution

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The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday struck down the state's approval of abortion, ruling that abortion is not a guaranteed right under the Iowa Constitution. 

The court ruled that a lower court had wrongly decided that abortion is guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution and federal law.

Friday's ruling comes amid expectations that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. 

The Iowa decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by abortion providers who challenged a 2020 law that required a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could get an abortion. The state Supreme Court returned the waiting period case to a district court.

The decision reflects a significant change in the court's makeup. Gov. Kim Reynolds has named four justices since 2017, so six of the seven people on the court have been appointed by Republican governors.

Reynolds, who is pro-life, and other Republicans in the Iowa Legislature have repeatedly said they hoped the court would overturn a 2018 ruling that upheld abortion. 

As CBN News reported in 2018, Reynolds signed the Hawkeye State's "Heartbeat Bill", banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. It was struck down by a district court judge in January of 2019 who called the law unconstitutional.

Reynolds has demurred on questions of what exceptions for an abortion she would accept. She said last month she is “proud of the legislation she signed in 2018,” including the state's "Heartbeat Bill."  That measure included exceptions to protect the life of the mother and in pregnancies that result from incest or rape.

Yet more recently, she stopped short of specifying similar exceptions. “I’m not going to set any parameters,” she told reporters.

The Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, has been actively involved in pro-life legal issues in Iowa for many years.

“The Thomas More Society is a founding member of Iowa’s Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders, which has become the dominant pro-life political force in Iowa," Senior Counsel Martin Cannon, who resides in Iowa, said in a statement. "Thomas More Society has also been very involved in advising the legislature in drafting and passing the 24-hour waiting period that is at the heart of today’s ruling. This is a huge victory for Iowa’s pro-life movement in which the Thomas More Society has been very active.”

Iowa Department of Public Health data shows there were 4,058 abortions in Iowa in 2020 — 835 by surgical procedure and 3,222 by medication. That was an increase over the previous year when 3,566 abortions were reported.  

Court documents show Planned Parenthood performs about 95% of Iowa abortions. 

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