DES MOINES, Iowa – District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin on Monday issued a temporary injunction preventing enforcement of HF 732, Iowa’s six-week (fetal heartbeat) abortion ban passed and signed into law last week.
Gov. Kim Reynolds called special session to address a deadlocked Iowa Supreme Court that left a district court permanent injunction of the original 2018 fetal heartbeat abortion ban in place.
The legislation passed last week was identical.
Seidlin noted that the Iowa Supreme Court, in its 2022 ruling, left the undue burden standard for abortion regulations in place.
“Justice Mansfield’s plurality decision setting forth the controlling disposition of the case under the ‘narrowest grounds doctrine,’ specifically held that ‘the Casey undue burden test we applied in [PPH 2015] remains the governing standard.’ This is the controlling precedent that this court is to follow. This court is not at liberty to overturn precedent of our Supreme Court,” he wrote.
Seidin noted that the state argued that the Iowa Supreme Court did not independently adopt the undue burden standard under the Iowa Constitution to evalute the state’s abortion law.
“That may be a valid argument,” he wrote. “Regardless, this court does not get to declare that our Supreme Court got it wrong and then impose a different standard. Such would be an alarming exercise of judicial activism. This court is bound to decide this matter pursuant to the instruction of our Supreme Court.”
The Iowa Supreme Court in 2022 overturned a 2018 opinion finding a constitutional right to abortion in Iowa’s Constitution that required strict scrutiny. They left the undue burden standard in place since, at the time, that is what the U.S. Supreme Court required.
One week later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey that created the undue burden standard.
The Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled against lifting the permanent injunction of the 2018 ban, argued the law was passed under Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, so it was a “hypothetical law.”
Seidlin, in his injunction, noted that the door was left open for further litigation.
“Undue burden is where our Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on the issue has left off, with an invitation to litigate the issue further. This, perhaps, is the litigation that accepts the invitation, and the jurisprudence will pick up again and presumably further refine or define the governing standard. In the meantime, this court will be required to apply the Casey undue burden standard when deciding the merits of the Petitioners’ claim. The Respondents, of course, can argue for and provide proof pursuant to the rational basis test. But any decision to apply that test in this case will have to come from our Supreme Court,” he wrote.
ACLU of Iowa representing the Emma Goldman Clinic, Planned Parenthood North Central States, and Dr. Sarah Traxler applauded the decision.
“We are relieved that Iowans will be protected in their ability to seek abortion care for the time being under the order issued today,” Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa, said.“This order is essential to protecting the bodily autonomy rights and freedom of Iowans, as well as their health and safety, while this unconstitutional and dangerous abortion ban is litigated. We know Iowans stand with us in wanting to protect abortion rights and keep politicians out of doctor-patient decisionmaking. We are also grateful to the court for hearing and deciding this case so quickly, as necessitated by the state’s unnecessarily cruel emergency effective date provision.”
Reynolds, in a relased statement, vowed to continue to fight.
“In their own words, the abortion industry stressed the need for a temporary injunction so they could continue with 200 scheduled abortions in the next two weeks. While Life was protected for a few days, now even more innocent babies will be lost,” she said.
“The abortion industry’s attempt to thwart the will of Iowans and the voices of their elected representatives continues today, but I will fight this all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court where we expect a decision that will finally provide justice for the unborn,” Reynolds added.
Should the case go to the Iowa Supreme Court, the justices will be asked by the state to drop the undue burden standard and instead adopt the rational basis test that would likely uphold the new fetal heartbeat abortion ban.
Read the injunction below:PPH-v-Reynolds-2023-Temp-Injunction