‘Not giving up this fight’: ACLU will continue to challenge Iowa Supreme Court decision


Amber Mohmand/Iowa State Daily

Demonstrators were seen brandishing signs with “Abortion = Healthcare,” “My body, my choice” and “Codify Roe v. Wade.”

The ACLU of Iowa announced that it will continue to fight the Iowa Supreme Court decision that abortions are no longer protected by the state’s constitution.  

The original decision declared that the state’s constitution protects the right to an abortion, but the court said Friday that the previous ruling that established this constitutional right “insufficiently recognizes that future human lives are at stake.” 

“Although we overrule (the 2018 court 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,” according to the majority opinion, written by Justice Edward Manfield. 

The decision stemmed from Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge over a 2020 law that put in place a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, arguing that its passage violated procedural rules and the waiting period was unconstitutional. 

Additionally, the court decided to send a case that challenged a 24-hour waiting period for abortion back to a lower court to be reevaluated.  

Considering that there is a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected soon, access to abortions in Iowa and across the U.S. may become more difficult. 

This decision “eliminates a strong, workable, and widely accepted barrier to governmental intrusion into the reproductive choices of a woman and invites us to stare into the standard-less abyss,” according to the Supreme Court’s official opinion

“This is inconsistent with the way that most Iowans understand their own rights. We know that the right to abortion is essential to freedom, quality health and safety,” ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said. “We also know that the majority of Iowans support abortion rights and without in any way minimizing the harm of today’s ruling, I also want to emphasize that it did not cause out all constitutional production for abortion. And that abortion remains legal in Iowa. And that’s really important for people to know.” 

This decision comes at the height of legal challenges regarding abortion across the country. It’s also shortly after the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. 

If the draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, is adopted, it would rule in favor of Mississippi in the closely watched case over that state’s attempt to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote in the draft opinion. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

Iowa’s decision specifically eliminates the state-level constitutional protections lawmakers would have to face. Those state-level constitutional protections would have remained in place, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

Austen did stress that the decision will not immediately ban abortions. There are numerous steps before that could or would happen.

“We are going to continue to fight this harmful and medically unjustified restriction,” Austen said. “So the next step in this case is for us to go back to the district court and continue our challenge under the undue burden standard. We’re committed to protecting abortion access and we’re not giving up for this fight.”