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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — New legal standards for potential abortion restrictions in Iowa must be argued first in front of a lower court judge, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in rejecting a request from the governor.
The court denied Gov. Kim Reynolds’ request to rehear a case involving a state law that requires a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion. Reynolds had requested the high court rehear it so that justices could rule on what legal standard would be applied to future abortion regulations in the state.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruling is the latest legal domino to fall in the wake of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, which eliminated a woman’s access to abortion as a federal right and sent the issue to states, and by the Iowa Supreme Court reversing its earlier decision that the state constitution provided a fundamental right to an abortion.
With their law-writing majorities in state government, Iowa Republicans are expected to further restrict if not outright ban abortions in Iowa.
In Tuesday’s decision, justice rejected Reynolds’ request, instead insisting the case first return to the district court level where the parties will argue before a district judge.
That district court judge’s ruling is likely to be appealed, and the case likely will return to the Iowa Supreme Court anyway, said legal expert Sally Frank, a law professor at Drake University.
Frank said the courts eventually will be asked to rule what type of legal standards should be applied to future abortion regulations: rational basis or undue burden. Frank said what kind of abortion restriction or ban statehouse Republicans propose likely will depend on which standard the state courts apply.
In the meantime, abortion remains legal in Iowa up until 20 weeks of pregnancy, as has been the case since 2017. However, the state law that requires a woman to wait 24 hours before having an abortion likely will go into effect soon.
Reynolds’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reynolds also in the wake of the recent U.S. and Iowa Supreme Court rulings has asked the state courts to lift an injunction on a state law that would ban all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which often is before the woman knows she is pregnant. The courts have not yet ruled on that request.
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