Iowa Governor’s Lawyer Calls for 6-Week Abortion Ban

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa judge should allow a law passed in 2018 that bans most abortions to take effect, three years after the measure was ruled unconstitutional, argued Friday attorneys for Governor Kim Reynolds.

Chris Schandevel, attorney for the Republican governor, said Judge Celene Gogerty should overturn a 2019 permanent injunction that prevented Iowa from enforcing a law that would block abortions once heart activity is detected. This is usually around six weeks pregnant and before many women know they are pregnant.

Schandevel said the injunction was based entirely on a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion under the Iowa Constitution and on cases decided by the state Supreme Court. States in 1992 and 1973 which established the right to abortion on a national scale.

All three cases were overturned this year by more conservative courts, and given that, Reynolds’ lawyers argued the judge should overturn the injunction and let the 2018 law go into effect.

“It would be unfair to prevent the people of Iowa from having their voices heard through a validly enacted law enacted as recently as 2018,” he said.

Rita Bettis Austen, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, countered that there was no precedent or legal support in Iowa for a judge to overturn a final judgment rendered three years ago. year,

“This case is closed,” said Bettis Austen, who represents Planned Parenthood, the state’s main abortion provider, which has challenged the law in court. “Iowa Civil Procedure Rules clearly govern this type of motion.”

She said the rules only allow a court to overturn a final judgment within one year and do not allow such overturning for a change in law.

The judge said she would make a decision soon.

The case should at least in the short term decide whether most abortions remain legal in Iowa. Reynolds, who is seeking a second term as governor, opted for the court strategy instead of trying to pass a law banning abortions amid the midterm elections.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll released earlier this month showed that 61% of Iowans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

During the hearing, Schandevel said courts have inherent authority over their own injunctions and can overrule them regardless of how long it takes.

Lawyers for both sides also questioned whether the law remains constitutional in Iowa’s current legal status.

The Iowa Supreme Court, in its June ruling overturning the state’s constitutional right to abortion granted four years ago, did not decide what level of scrutiny judges should use to assess new abortion bans. Instead, the court left this issue for further consideration.

Since the 2018 ruling granting Iowans the constitutional right to abortion, Iowa courts have held abortion restrictions to the highest level of strict scrutiny, requiring laws to be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest.

With this constitutional right struck down, Bettis Austen argued that the level of undue scrutiny remains in Iowa until the courts change it. She noted that the Iowa Supreme Court had previously ruled that abortion bans in early pregnancy, including six-week bans, could not survive the excessive demand test.

Schandevel said it was appropriate for the judge to reject the excessive demand test and instead analyze the law using a rational foundations review. It is the lowest level of judicial review that allows most laws to survive legal challenges.

Under this test, legislators need only demonstrate that they have a legitimate state interest in enacting a law and that there is a rational connection between the law and its purposes. Many courts have upheld abortion restrictions under the rational basis test.

The abortion law approved by lawmakers and signed by Reynolds requires providers to perform tests to detect a fetal ‘heartbeat’ – which usually occurs about six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period – except medical emergencies, rape and incest. Embryos don’t have a heart at this stage of gestation, so an ultrasound actually measures electrical impulses, not an actual heartbeat, providers say.

Any decision made by Gogerty is subject to appeal.

Twelve states currently prohibit abortion at conception. Georgia is currently enforcing a six-week ban similar to what Iowa would have if authorized by the courts. Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota and Oklahoma have six-week bans barred from enforcement by court orders. In Wisconsin, clinics have stopped offering abortions although there is a dispute over whether a ban is in effect.

David Pitt, l’Associated Press

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