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Iowa Supreme Court (USA): Right to Abortion Not a Fundamental Right

2 min read

Shashwati Chowdhury

Published on: June 22, 2022 at 17:05 IST

The Supreme Court of the State of Iowa (in the United States of America) has ruled that abortion is not a fundamental right under the State Constitution of Iowa. In doing so, it has overruled its own decision rendered four years ago) in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds (PPH II) (2018) (PPH I), wherein it was ruled that night that abortion: is a fundamental right under the State Constitution of Iowa.

Justice Edward Mansfield wrote while authoring the majority opinion majority opinion, “Hence, all we hold today is that the Iowa Constitution is not the source of a fundamental right to an abortion necessitating a strict scrutiny standard of review for regulations affecting that right.”

The Court was confronted in PPH II with a mandated 72-hour waiting period for abortion enacted by the State Legislature in 2017. The Court determined that abortion is a fundamental right protected by the Iowa Constitution. As a result, it found that the waiting period could not survive strict scrutiny under that test and struck it down as unconstitutional.

A mandatory “24-hour waiting period for abortion” was added by the State’s general assembly in 2020 to pending legislation that limited the ability of courts to withdraw life-sustaining procedures. The United States Supreme Court upheld the same time period, 24-hour waiting period (1992),  in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833. However, Planned Parenthood successfully sued in District Court to block the operation of the statute.

According to the majority, both limitations on abortion and life-sustaining procedures fall under the category of “medical procedures,” as stated by the bill’s title. Therefore, the single-subject rule wasn’t violated. Furthermore, the majority concurred with the State that a 72-hour waiting time and a 24-hour waiting period are not identical as far as issue preclusion was concerned. Additionally, they agreed that issue preclusion did not bar a state’s highest court from revisiting its own decision on a broad constitutional law, such as the right to an abortion.

Chief Justice Susan Christensen refused to overrule PPH II, citing the rule of stare decisis. She also believed that the mentioned 24-hour waiting period “impermissibly broad“.

Justice Brent R. Appel also strongly dissented from the majority verdict and warned the possible harms to the reproductive autonomy of women in the State of Iowa in the coming days.

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