In rare 3-3 decision, Iowa Supreme Court declines to reinstate law largely banning abortion

DES MOINES — The Iowa Supreme Court has declined to remove the injunction against the 2018 law that would limit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.  Abortion will remain legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.  

Chief Justice Susan Christenson, and justices Thomas Waterman and Edward Mansfield voted against removing the injunction. Justices Christopher McDonald, Mathew McDermott and David May voted to remove the injunction, while Justice Dana Oxley did not vote. The 3-3 tie leaves the injunction in place. 

Justice Waterman wrote the ruling was never appealed when it was enacted, and the law was not legal at the time it passed before the Supreme Court’s ruling that abortion is not a right, and those are important reasons to deny the appeal. Justice McDonald wrote the dissent — saying that it is almost universally accepted  that courts have inherent authority to modify or dissolve a permanent injunction based on changes in fact or law without regard to the passage of time.

Governor Kim Reynolds issued a statement calling the lack of action by the court disappointing.  It says “Not only does it disregard Iowa voters who elected representatives willing to stand up for the rights of unborn children, but it has sided with a single judge in a single county who struck down Iowa’s legislation based on principles that now have been flat-out rejected by the U-S Supreme Court. 

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart released a statement saying “I am thrilled that the Iowa Supreme Court will not stand in the way of Iowans who need abortion care, especially when our friends and neighbors already have to navigate so many barriers to health care. Our job as Democrats going forward is to listen to the needs of our fellow Iowans and ensure that folks in every corner of the state can access the medical care they need, no matter where they live or what’s in their wallet. “


This story was updated at 10:55 AM