DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds announced on Tuesday that she intends to ask the Iowa Supreme Court to rehear Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds (PPH IV) after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in an opinion released on Friday.
She also urged Iowa courts to lift the injunction placed on the fetal heartbeat abortion ban (PPH III) that effectively prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy except when necessary to save a mother’s life.
“Now is the time for us to stand up and continue the fight to protect the unborn,” Reynolds said. “The Supreme Court’s historic decision reaffirms that states have the right to protect the innocent and defenseless unborn—and now it’s time for our State to do just that. As governor, I will do whatever it takes to defend the most important freedom there is: the right to life.”
The Iowa Supreme Court, in their opinion overruling a 2018 opinion that found a constitutional right to abortion requiring strict scrutiny, left the door open to consider a new constitutional test if the Supreme Court overturned Roe and Casey.
“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,” Justice Edward Mansfield said, writing the Court’s opinion.
The Iowa Supreme Court left the undue burden standard, derived from Casey, as a constitutional test. In 2015, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the Iowa Board of Medicine’s ban on telemedicine abortions using that standard and was used to block the fetal heartbeat abortion ban.
Reynolds wants the Iowa Supreme Court to remove the undue burden standard as a test since the Supreme Court overturned Casey.
In its place, the Supreme Court adopted a “rational basis” test under which a law regulating abortion “must be sustained if there is a rational basis on which the legislature could have thought that it would serve legitimate state interests.”
Further court hearings will happen without the support of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who formally declined on Tuesday to participate in Reynolds’ legal actions.
“Our office is withdrawing from the case involving the 24-hour waiting period, or House File 594, for ethical reasons. I have made many clear public statements supporting Roe v. Wade and the rationale that underlies it. Those statements would be inconsistent with what the State would argue in Court. I support the undue burden standard that the U.S. Supreme Court set forth in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 24-hour case has now moved to a point in which I doubt that I can zealously assert the State’s position. The question now before the Iowa Supreme Court is whether the rational basis test should apply to abortion regulations. I believe that standard would have a detrimental impact on women’s reproductive rights, health care, and our society. Therefore, I am disqualifying myself pursuant to Iowa Code section 13.3,” he said.
“This decision is consistent with my disqualification in the fetal heartbeat case in 2018. In that case, I stated that I could not zealously assert the State’s position because of my core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women. In my nearly 40 years in office, I have declined to represent the State in only one other similar situation. I do not take lightly my responsibility to represent the State,” he said.
Reynolds said she is retaining Alliance Defending Freedom and Iowa attorney Alan Ostergren, President and Chief Counsel of the Kirkwood Institute, to represent the State at no cost to Iowa taxpayers.
Republican legislative leaders expressed their support for Reynolds’ announcement.
“Since coming into the majority, Senate Republicans have led on the issue of life,” Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said. “In 2018 the Heartbeat Bill created significant momentum across the country for conservative states to initiate legislation to protect the unborn. One of those state laws led to the historic Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last week, opening the path for the 2018 law to be implemented in Iowa. I support the decision to put these laws back in front of the Court to protect life in Iowa.”
“For far too long, flawed Court rulings at the state and federal levels have blocked many of our attempts to listen to Iowans and expand pro-life protections,” Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, stated. “Iowa House Republicans’ goal is to protect the lives of the unborn. That’s why I support the Governor’s decision on these legal actions as the best path forward to protect innocent life.”
Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, blasted the announcement.
“Iowa Republicans will not stop until they have completely banned abortion without exception. This is an incredibly dangerous action that threatens the health, safety, and future of Iowa women,” he said.
Iowa currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.
The Iowa Legislature passed a bill that funded a statewide program to promote healthy pregnancies and childbirth. Through the program, Iowa will provide needed support, like parenting education, nutritional services, and material items such as diapers and car seats, for women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.
Through the implementation of Family First, Iowa is also equipping at-risk families with the tools they need to succeed and allowing safe options for a path to adoption through expanded Safe Haven laws. Reynolds also supported expanded contraception and family planning services through the State’s Title X program, ensuring that low-income Iowans have access to maternal care.