Iowa Supreme Court denies State’s bid for rehearing on standard of review for abortion regulations

by Rox Laird | July 6, 2022

On July 1 the State of Iowa filed a petition urging the Iowa Supreme Court to rehear its June 17 ruling on abortion in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds. (Read our previous post on the Court’s prior ruling here.) The State requested the Court revisit its earlier opinion and hold that the permissive rational-basis test applies when assessing constitutionality under the Iowa Constitution of state regulation of abortion. On July 5, the Court denied the State’s petition in a one-page order signed by Chief Justice Susan Christensen.

Questions relating to the appropriate standard of review will be considered on remand by the Johnson County District Court, which had enjoined enforcement of the statute establishing a 24-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion.

The Supreme Court, in its June 17 ruling reversing its 2018 decision recognizing a fundamental right to abortion under the Iowa Constitution, was divided with no controlling majority on what legal standard to apply in abortion regulation cases going forward. That question will be taken up by the District Court on remand but likely ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.

In its motion for rehearing, the State argued the Iowa Supreme Court should follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overruled Roe v. Wade and held that the United States constitution does not protect the right to an abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs¸ therefore, also held that the  “rational basis” standard of review applies when assessing laws regulating abortion under the federal constitution. Under rational-basis review, a law is constitutional when it is “rationally related to a legitimate state interest.”

“To avoid any misunderstanding, the State is now unequivocally asking this Court to hold that rational-basis review governs Iowa constitutional challenges to laws regulating abortion,” the State said in its motion. “That holding is consistent with the sound logic of Dobbs. And this Court can—and should—decide the issue now with the benefit of the wisdom from that decision.”

The motion for rehearing was filed on behalf of the State by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization.

Attorney General Tom Miller, whose office had previously represented the State in the Planned Parenthood case, earlier announced his withdrawal from the case.

In a statement released June 28, Miller said, “I have made many clear public statements supporting Roe v. Wade and the rationale that underlies it. Those statements would be inconsistent with what the state would argue in court. I support the undue burden standard that the U.S. Supreme Court set forth in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 24-hour case has now moved to a point in which I doubt that I can zealously assert the state’s position. The question now before the Iowa Supreme Court is whether the rational basis test should apply to abortion regulations. I believe that standard would have a detrimental impact on women’s reproductive rights, health care, and our society.”





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On Brief: Iowa’s Appellate Blog is devoted to appellate litigation with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.


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