Iowa officials respond to district court’s temporary injunction on new abortion ban

(The Center Square) – An Iowa district court decided Monday to issue a temporary injunction on the law legislators passed last week to ban abortion.

Gov. Kim Reynolds had called for a special…

(The Center Square) – An Iowa district court decided Monday to issue a temporary injunction on the law legislators passed last week to ban abortion.

Gov. Kim Reynolds had called for a special legislative session regarding abortion legislation following the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision in June to block a similar 2018 law. Reynolds signed the bill, HF 732, into law Friday.

Polk County District Court blocked the new law July 17 after abortion providers made an emergency motion Wednesday to temporarily block it. The petitioners’ and Reynolds’ legal teams made arguments Friday.

The court said that while Reynolds’ counsel’s argument that the Iowa Supreme Court was wrong when it decided in 2022 that undue burden remains the governing standard because that court hasn’t independently adopted the undue burden standard under the Iowa Constitution to evaluate state abortion laws, the district court can’t declare the Iowa Supreme Court got it wrong and impose a different standard.

“Such would be an alarming exercise of judicial activism,” the ruling from Fifth Judicial District of Iowa Judge Joseph Seidlin said. “This court is bound to decide this matter pursuant to the instruction of our Supreme Court.”

The Iowa abortion providers that filed the lawsuit said in a July 17 news release that by banning most abortions, the law violates Iowans’ constitutional rights to abortion and substantive due process and women’s equal protection under state law.

According to the petitioners, the bill bans abortions before many people know they’re pregnant and the exceptions regarding life of the mother, medical emergencies, miscarriage, fetal diagnoses and survivors of rape and incest involve significant barriers that –based on the experiences of patients and providers in other states are unworkable – put patients’ lives at risk and deprive people of reproductive freedom.

ACLU of Iowa legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said the ban is dangerous and the injunction order is a relief.

“We know Iowans stand with us in wanting to protect abortion rights and keep politicians out of doctor-patient decisionmaking,” Austen said. “We are also grateful to the court for hearing and deciding this case so quickly, as necessitated by the state’s unnecessarily cruel emergency effective date provision.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in the release that some Iowa politicians are “hellbent” on banning abortion in defiance of the state constitution and Planned Parenthood and its partners won’t back down.

“When the U.S. Supreme Court returned the issue of abortion to the states, I do not believe it was their intention that unelected judges would make this decision,” Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, who voted in favor of the bill, told The Center Square in a texted statement. “Rather, the people through their elected representatives. Judges must return to their lane, interpret the constitution and stop legislating from the bench.”

As the lawsuits move through the court system, the state has to spend money and court resources to defend the law, Holt said.

“However, that is our system of checks and balances that we all believe in,” he said.

He said that the battle over abortion has been going on since 1973, and now there are even stronger opinions on both sides. He suspects that at some point elected officials will make these decisions, but that will take a while.

Reynolds said in a statement that abortion providers demanded the injunction so 200 scheduled abortions could proceed over the next two weeks.

Iowa Public Radio reported July 12 that Planned Parenthood attorney Peter Im said Planned Parenthood and the Emma Goldman Clinic have a total of 200 patients scheduled for abortion services in Iowa within two weeks.

“While Life was protected for a few days, now even more innocent babies will be lost,” Reynolds said. “The abortion industry’s attempt to thwart the will of Iowans and the voices of their elected representatives continues today, but I will fight this all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court where we expect a decision that will finally provide justice for the unborn.”