Iowa requests state Supreme Court approval of its stringent abortion law.

Des Moines — On Thursday, Iowa petitioned the state Supreme Court to uphold its barred abortion statute, challenging abortion clinics' arguments that it violates women's bodily autonomy.  

For a few days last July, the law banned most abortions after six weeks, before most women realize they are pregnant. A district court judge soon after halted it for constitutional review. The state Supreme Court allowed Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to appeal. While the new law is pending, Iowa allows abortion up to 20 weeks.  

Iowa lawmakers enacted the proposal in a one-day special session with Republican backing. The next day, the ACLU of Iowa, Planned Parenthood North Central States, and Emma Goldman Clinic sued.  

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, most Republican-led states have limited abortion availability, and 14 have near-total restrictions at all stages. Arizona joined that group this week when its Supreme Court upheld a long-dormant legislation banning nearly all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest.  

Iowa's hearing on Thursday is the latest in a years-long legal struggle over abortion regulations. By June, the state Supreme Court would rule, but the problem may not be resolved. Iowa's supreme court hasn't decided if abortion laws' “undue burden test” rulings stand. Laws must not impede abortion at the intermediate level of undue burden.  

“It is emphatically this court's role and duty to say how the Iowa Constitution protects individual rights, bodily autonomy, and Iowans' rights to exercise dominion over their own bodies,” Planned Parenthood attorney Peter Im told the justices.

The state argues for rational basis review, the lowest level of legal examination. Eric Wessan, representing Iowa, said it's imperative “after years of litigation” that the high court rule that way. The top court might end the temporary hold without ruling on the law's constitutionality or the criterion to adopt, sending the matter back to lower courts for full debate.  

Reynolds summoned lawmakers to Des Moines in July after the Supreme Court rejected a virtually identical 2018 measure. It passed against state and federal court rulings, including Roe v. Wade, which upheld abortion. After both courts overturned those decisions, Reynolds requested the 2018 law take effect. Recusal by an Iowa high court justice preserved the block in a rare 3-3 decision.  

The full court heard arguments Thursday, suggesting all seven justices will hear the case. Wessan used the Iowa Supreme Court's 2022 reversal to argue that the bench already decided there's no “fundamental right” to abortion in the state constitution. “This court has never recognized a quasi-fundamental or fundamental-ish right,” he remarked.  

The Iowa law allows abortion after six weeks if the fetus has a fetal abnormality “incompatible with life” or if the pregnancy endangers the woman's life. The state medical board recently established law-abiding doctor guidelines.  

stay turned for development