Deadlocked Iowa Supreme Court Leaves Abortion Legal Through 20 Weeks


A legal attempt to ban abortion in Iowa after six weeks of pregnancy failed on Friday, after the State Supreme Court deadlocked over whether to vacate a lower court’s injunction and allow the ban to take effect. That means abortion will remain legal in Iowa through 20 weeks of pregnancy.

As one state after another banned or sharply limited access to abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Iowa’s status as a place where abortion remained accessible was at stake.

The Iowa ban “was dangerous, cruel and unconstitutional when the district court blocked it four years ago, and it’s still dangerous, cruel and unconstitutional today,” said Rita Bettis Austen, legal director of A.C.L.U. of Iowa, a civil liberties advocacy group. “Many Iowans were depending on the outcome of the case today, and we are celebrating the preservation of our freedom, health and safety.”

Chris Schandevel, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa in the case, said, “Iowans will surely be disappointed by today’s result, and rightly so.” He added, “It’s time for the Legislature to act — once again — to protect life.”

The case revolved around a law signed in 2018 by Ms. Reynolds, a Republican, four years before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the national right to abortion that was codified in the Roe v. Wade decision.

Iowa’s 2018 law was blocked by a district judge, who cited an Iowa Supreme Court decision holding that the State Constitution provided a fundamental right to abortion — a decision that was later reversed.

In light of that and the end of Roe, Ms. Reynolds asked the district court to lift its permanent injunction against enforcing the 2018 law. But the district court said no, setting the stage for the Iowa Supreme Court to hear the case.

The higher court, whose members are all Republican appointees, deadlocked 3-3 on Friday, letting the lower court’s injunction stand.

In a sharply worded opinion, the three justices who opposed lifting the injunction called the state’s request “a poor vehicle” to overrule the district court, writing, “Nothing like this case has come up in Iowa’s legal history before or is likely to come up again.”


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