Iowa abortion suit won’t have easy path to US Supreme Court


DES MOINES, Iowa — Supporters of the nation’s strictest abortion law passed recently in Iowa are hoping a lawsuit filed against it will bring the issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court, but constitutional experts say that’s unlikely because of a legal manoeuvr by abortion-rights groups.

The Iowa affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit this week challenging the constitutionality of a law set to go in effect on July 1 that would prohibit most abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected. That’s around six weeks of pregnancy.

However, the groups filed their complaint in state court in Des Moines, and it focuses on alleged violations of Iowa’s constitution rather than federal constitutional law.

The distinction is important, said Columbia Law School professor Katherine Franke. It complicates the legal avenue for challenging Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy until a fetus is viable.

“The Iowa Supreme Court is the court of last resort on how to interpret the Iowa Constitution,” she said. “They’re raising it exclusively as a state constitutional issue for obvious reasons. They don’t want to be baited into having this case be the opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to revise Roe. It’s a smart strategy.”

Rita Bettis, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa, said during a press conference that the Iowa Supreme Court has previously recognized a woman’s right to an abortion when it struck down an effort by a state medicine board to ban telemedicine abortions. The practice continues to allow women in rural areas to get abortion pills without the need for an in-office consultation in a city clinic.

“We think that that’s a clear indication of what we already know, which is that the Iowa Constitution robustly protects exactly these fundamental individual rights that include a woman’s right to access a safe and legal abortion,” she said.

The makeup of the Iowa Supreme Court remains mostly the same. Bruce Zager, an appointee of former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, will retire in September. New Gov. Kim Reynolds, Branstad’s former lieutenant governor, will fill the vacancy.

Justice Daryl Hecht, an appointee of former Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, has missed hearing some cases recently as he undergoes treatment for melanoma, a form of skin cancer. But court officials say he’ll continue to participate as treatment allows.

Iowa Republican lawmakers who passed the abortion ban this year believe the state courts strategy isn’t foolproof. Rep. Steven Holt, a Republican from the small western Iowa city of Denison, said he believes the court case will raise enough federal questions that it will provide an avenue for questions before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“None of us have a crystal ball,” he said. “The only thing that I can say is that numerous state laws that are challenged end up before the United States Supreme Court.”

Todd Pettys, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, said that comes down primarily to whether the Iowa Supreme …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News

      

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