DES MOINES, Iowa – After almost 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey on Friday, sending the abortion debate back to the states.
“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote, representing the five-member majority.
It’s a debate that Republicans and Democrats both indicated a willingness to have in the 2022 elections and in January when the 90th General Assembly gavels in.
In Iowa, Republicans rejoiced that the abortion debate would return to the states.
“The Supreme Court’s greatest moments have come when it allows America to embody more perfectly the enduring truth on which it was founded: that all human beings, without exception, are created equal. By that measure, (Friday’s) historic decision is clearly one such moment. But the fight for life is not over. As Governor, I won’t rest until every unborn Iowan is protected and respected,” Reynolds said.
Republican leadership in the legislature also committed to protecting the unborn.
“The Supreme Court restored a fundamental truth Iowa Republicans have always known – life is precious. These past two weeks have brought significant victories for the pro-life movement both nationally and in Iowa. Iowa House Republicans will continue to protect the innocent lives of unborn children,” Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said.
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said that Senate Republicans plan to advance legislation protecting the unborn.
“After decades of prayer, volunteering, and voting, the cause of the unborn won a victory many thought they would never see. As a pro-life caucus, Senate Republicans have led on the protection of life and will continue to do so. We look forward to continuing to advance the cause of the unborn,” he said.
Democrats pledged to fight to keep abortion legal in Iowa.
“While today’s ruling is tough and it might feel hopeless, this fight is not over,” Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said.
“I am going to fight like hell every single day to make sure every family in Iowa keeps their right to access safe, legal abortions,” she added.
Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Walhs, D-Coralville, said the right to abortion in Iowa is in “grave danger.”
“(The) disastrous Supreme Court decision by six unelected Republican Justices is a direct assault on the freedom of Iowa women to make their own health care decisions and of all Iowans to exercise their rights to privacy and self-determination,” he said.
“Here in Iowa, the right to an abortion is grave danger. Iowa Republican politicians have made it clear they want to completely ban abortion without exceptions as quickly as possible,” Wahls added.
Iowa’s legal landscape regarding abortion is in flux as the Iowa Supreme Court overturned its 2018 ruling claiming a fundamental right to abortion.
“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 said writing the opinion for the court released over a week ago.
“(W)e are not blind to the fact that an important abortion case is now pending in the United States Supreme Court,” he added. “That case could alter the federal constitutional landscape established by Roe and Casey. While we zealously guard our ability to interpret the Iowa Constitution independently of the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the Federal Constitution, the opinion (or opinions) in that case may provide insights that we are currently lacking.”
The Iowa Legislature in 2021 passed a proposed constitutional amendment that reads, “Life. To defend the dignity of all human Life and protect unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the point of birth, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”
The proposed amendment will have to pass in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate again in either 2023 or 2024 during the 90th General Assembly before voters can decide.
The proposed amendment responds to the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018 decision that has been overturned. The legislature and Reynolds could revisit the fetal heartbeat abortion ban that was overturned in district court following the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision or some other restrictions since the legal landscape has changed.