This story was originally published at 9:15 AM Friday, June 17th, and was updated at 10:50 AM Friday with statements from Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Democratic Party chairman Ross Wilburn.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for lawmakers to severely limit or even ban abortion in the state, reversing a decision by the court just four years ago that guaranteed the right to the procedure under the Iowa Constitution.
The court, now composed almost entirely of Republican appointees, concluded that a less conservative court wrongly decided that abortion is among the fundamental privacy rights guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution and federal law.
Friday’s ruling comes amid expectations that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Then Iowa lawmakers could ban abortion in the state without completing the lengthy process of amending the state constitution.
The Iowa decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by abortion providers who challenged a 2020 law that required a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could get an abortion. A judge who struck down the law cited the state high court’s 2018 ruling. The judge also concluded the law violated rules prohibiting passage of bills with more than one subject.
The state Supreme Court returned the waiting period case to district court.
In its 2018 ruling, decided by a 5-2 vote, the court said that “autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free.”
The reversal of a decision after just four years reflects a dramatic change in the court’s makeup. Gov. Kim Reynolds has named four justices since 2017, so six of the seven people on the court have been appointed by Republican governors.
Reynolds, an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, and Republicans in the Legislature have repeatedly said they hoped the court would overturn the 2018 ruling. With that in mind, Reynolds and GOP lawmakers gave the governor more control over the panel that chooses which lawyers and judges are nominated for court positions.
Governor Kim Reynolds released this statement in response to the Iowa Supreme Court’s abortion ruling: “Today’s ruling is a significant victory in our fight to protect the unborn. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed its earlier 2018 decision, which made Iowa the most abortion-friendly state in the country. Every life is sacred and should be protected, and as long as I’m governor that is exactly what I will do.”
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn released this statement:
“The majority of Iowans and the majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal and not subject to the personal whims of a fringe minority. This decision introduces new barriers to accessing care and leaves Iowans exposed to even more attacks on our reproductive freedoms. We are one step closer to a future where Iowa Republicans could have free rein to outlaw abortion and restrict reproductive health care. I know that many of us feel afraid right now, but we have the power to elect Iowa Democrats this fall who will write the protections of Roe into law at both the federal and state level. This fight is not over – and I’m proud to stand alongside the Iowans organizing for a future where our personal freedoms are protected.”