116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The late Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady got it right in 2018 when the high court ruled the state’s constitution guarantees a fundamental right to access an abortion.
“Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free,” Cady wrote in the majority opinion striking at a law forcing Iowans to wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion. “At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world. Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty.”
Last week, a vastly different Iowa Supreme Court wadded up Cady’s eloquence and tossed it out the window while weighing another 24-hour waiting period. The court ruled that the state constitution does not guarantee abortion as a fundamental right, deserving the highest level of judicial scrutiny. The court majority didn’t settle on what legal test the state must pass to limit abortion. For now, the federal standard, directing that restrictions not place an undue burden on people seeking an abortion, remains in place.
But, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to toss that standard any minute now and likely overturn Roe v. Wade. The Iowa case at issue, Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds, goes back to District Court, where arguments over what standard should apply in Iowa will continue.
The 2018 ruling, our strongest firewall protecting Iowans from the actions of a highly politicized, leaky and activist U.S. Supreme Court is gone.
But amid this uncertainty, the Iowa Supreme Court did, at least, provide us some clarity. About this fall’s election, that is.
With the departure of Brent Appel, the last member of the court picked by a Democratic governor, Iowa’s highest court is about to get even more conservative. Republican Gov. Km Reynolds will get yet another court pick.
Reynolds is on the ballot. If she wins, we know her capacity for steering the state sharply rightward knows no bounds. She’ll clearly champion putting an undue burden on Iowans, and then some.
If the Legislature remains in Republican hands, it likely will be even more conservative. Multiple GOP primary battles were fought over abortion, with Republicans unwilling to embrace the most extreme restrictions pushed by their party unceremoniously shown the door.
By striking down a fundamental right to abortion, the court has opened the door to legislation enacting draconian restrictions on Iowans’ reproductive liberty. Unwarranted government intrusions could suddenly become the law of the land. Our liberties won’t be prized, nor our rights maintained. Well, unless you want to buy a bunch of firearms.
So abortion rights are on the ballot, alongside the future of public education in Iowa. It’s going to be tough for Republicans to paper over the November vote In Iowa as a referendum on Joe Biden, gas prices and drag shows. These are core issues affecting scores of Iowans.
Abortion has long been a divisive issue under the Golden Dome of Wisdom. But the path we’re on now is leading us toward am irresponsible disregard for individual rights that will put women’s lives in danger, trap them in horrendous situations and push them into a second-class legal status. After just four years, our courts have gone from protecting a fundamental right to putting Iowans’ fate potentially in the hands of legislative zealots.
A fundamental right has been revoked. But the right to vote remains, and it can still be powerful.
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