Reynolds appeals injunction that blocks abortion restrictions from being enforced

By: - July 21, 2023 5:15 pm

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, seen here at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit earlier this year, has appealed a judge’s decision that blocks the state from enforcing new abortion restrictions. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

As promised, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has appealed a judge’s decision that blocks the state from enforcing a new law that seeks to ban almost all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The injunction was issued Monday, three days after Reynolds signed the measure into law. Because of that injunction, abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy is currently legal in Iowa while a lawsuit challenging the new law’s constitutionality works its way through the courts.

Within hours of the injunction being issued, Reynolds said she intended to “fight this all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.”

In announcing her decision to challenge appeal the decision on the injunction, Reynolds said Friday she will “never stop fighting to protect our unborn children and to uphold state laws enacted by our elected legislators.”

The new law seeks to prohibit almost all abortions once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, which is typically around the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women realize they are pregnant. It is almost identical to a bill that Reynolds signed into law in 2018. Enforcement of that law was also blocked by a court-ordered injunction.

In the wake of this year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that essentially overturned Roe v. Wade, lawyers for the state filed a petition in district court to dissolve the injunction. The court rejected that proposal, which led to an appeal that went before the Iowa Supreme Court, where the justices deadlocked on a decision and left the injunction in place.

That decision prompted Reynolds to call a special session of the Iowa Legislature earlier this month, during which lawmakers passed a virtually identical bill, triggering an immediate legal challenge by Planned Parenthood North Central States, the Emma Goldman Clinic and the ACLU of Iowa.

The plaintiffs were able to persuade Polk County District Judge Joseph Seidlin that a temporary injunction blocking the law’s enforcement was warranted since they were likely to succeed in their challenge of the law.

The plaintiffs argue the new law violates the Iowa Constitution because, in seeking to protect the unborn, it places “an undue burden” on prospective mothers. The state is arguing Iowa’s constitution doesn’t guarantee a right to abortion and that decisions about the new law’s legality should be based not on whether it places an “undue burden” on those seeking abortions but on whether the state has a “reasonable basis” – such as protecting the lives of the unborn – for enacting such a law.

Noting that the Iowa Supreme Court’s recent decision specifically held that the undue burden test remains the governing standard in such cases, Seidlin said, “This court is not at liberty to overturn precedent of our Supreme Court … This court does not get to declare that our Supreme Court got it wrong and then impose a different standard. Such would be an alarming exercise of judicial activism. This court is bound to decide this matter pursuant to the instruction of our Supreme Court.”

Seidlin pointed out that “when the undue burden standard is applied, it is readily apparent that the petitioners are likely to succeed on their claim” that the new violates the Iowa Constitution.

With the case now moving back to the Iowa Supreme Court, the state will again have the opportunity to argue that the reasonable-basis standard should be used by the courts to determine the new law’s legality.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.