Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Blocking 6-Week Abortion Ban
Wood Gavel Standing Front Of the Iowa Flag Closeup 3d Render Focused image

In a split decision, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that blocked the state’s six-week abortion ban.

The Court split 3-3, allowing the ruling from an Iowa district court to stand, which blocked the ban before Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overruled Roe v. Wade.

“To say that today’s lack of action by the Iowa Supreme Court is a disappointment is an understatement,” Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said in a statement. “Not only does it disregard Iowa voters who elected representatives willing to stand up for the rights of unborn children, but it has sided with a single judge in a single county who struck down Iowa’s legislation based on principles that now have been flat-out rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The heartbeat bill was signed by Reynolds in 2018 — before Dobbs. This means it could not go into effect under the Roe ruling and was blocked under a previous court ruling. 

One week before SCOTUS handed down Dobbs, the Hawkeye State’s highest court ruled 5-2 that abortion was not a fundamental right under its state constitution, overruling its more liberal predecessors’ 2019 decision. Amid the two changes in federal and state constitutional law, Reynolds moved to lift the injunction against her fetal heartbeat law. 

Justice Dana Oxley set the stage for the split decision by recusing herself from the case. Normally, an evenly divided court in Iowa would not release opinions, but the justices did for this case. Justice Thomas Waterman wrote the opinion in favor of Planned Parenthood, and Justice Christopher McDonald and Matthew McDermott wrote opinions in favor of the state.

Waterman argued that even though the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the federal Constitution in Dobbs, the Iowa Supreme Court has a duty to interpret only the Iowa Constitution and is not bound to interpret the state’s constitution in the same way SCOTUS interpreted the federal one. Waterman also argued that because the legislature knew the law had no chance of going into effect, the legislature would need to pass it again under the new rulings.

McDermott agreed with Waterman’s federalism argument but pushed back against McDonald’s “hypothetical law” argument, noting regardless of the legislature’s supposed intentions, the law was enacted as a law and ought to be enforced as such. 


He further accused the other side of flipping the famous John Adams quote “a government of laws, not of men.” McDermott wrote, “But our colleagues flip it and add a twist: that ours is a government not of laws but a court’s view of legislators’ motivations when they pass laws.” 

McDonald argued that the prevailing side is overstepping judicial bounds by making a political, not legal, determination. “The dispute over the regulation of abortion in Iowa has many dimensions — cultural, political, medical, practical, moral, ethical, and legal. The judicial department’s authority begins and ends with the legal dimension,” he wrote. 

Despite the court’s ruling, the Iowa General Assembly is looking to pass the “life amendment,” which would amend the state constitution to declare that no right to abortion exists in the state. If the amendment passes the legislature, the amendment will go on the ballot in 2024 for voters to decide.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Blocking 6-Week Abortion Ban