116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It was just over three years ago that the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a law requiring women to wait 72 hours after an initial appointment before having an abortion. That 5-2 ruling established access to abortion as a fundamental right for Iowa women.
“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,” the late Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in the majority opinion. “Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty. We therefore hold, under the Iowa Constitution, that implicit in the concept of ordered liberty is the ability to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy.”
It’s one among a string of rulings by Iowa’s high court carving out stronger constitutional protections for the rights of Iowans than have been established by federal courts interpreting the U.S. Constitution.
But much has changed since June 2018.
Only three justices who took part in that 2018 ruling remain on the court. Justice Brent Appel is the only remaining justice who joined the majority. Justices Thomas Waterman and Edward Mansfield dissented. Six of seven members of the court have been appointed by Republican former Gov. Terry Branstad or Gov. Kim Reynolds.
GOP lawmakers are at the halfway point of an effort to undermine that 2018 ruling through a constitutional amendment declaring no fundamental right to abortion is guaranteed by the Constitution. It must pass again in the next General Assembly before going to Iowa voters.
And, of course, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to end 50 years of abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade, potentially throwing the issue to the states. Many will ban abortion almost immediately if Roe falls in a ruling expected next summer.
And yet, in Iowa, that 2018 ruling still stands. Republicans who run the Statehouse would be wise to leave these decisions in the hands of women and physicians. Although we know that’s highly unlikely. A party that’s eager to protect the liberty of Iowans who oppose vaccines and masks sees no problem in denying reproductive autonomy for women.
Iowans don’t want abortion to be outlawed. In September, the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll found 57 percent are supportive of legal abortion in all or most cases. Thirty-eight percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Although only 13 percent supported an outright ban. A March poll found only 33 percent of Iowans support the anti-abortion constitutional amendment.
Women will still have abortions, especially considering how the GOP Legislature has made it more difficult to obtain contraception. Some will cross the Mississippi River to seek a procedure in Illinois. But others will seek potentially dangerous covert abortions in Iowa. Women will be risking their health and their lives.
Basically, Republican politicians should stop trying to stand between Iowa women and their ability to shape their “identity, destiny and place in the world.” And if they proceed with a reckless abortion ban, Iowans should take back this fundamental right at the voting booth.
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