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Gov. Reynolds wants state abortion limits reconsidered after overturn of Roe v. Wade, Iowa Supreme Court decision

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Reynolds Condition of the State

DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) -- In her first litigations since the monumental decision from the Supreme Court to overturn Roe V. Wade, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds is now calling for Iowa's "Fetal Heartbeat Law" to be reinstated, which would ban abortions after six weeks.

She is also calling for the Iowa Supreme Court to reexamine a ruling regarding a 24-hour abortion waiting period. 

Currently, abortion in Iowa is legal up to 20 weeks. The Heartbeat Law banned abortions at six weeks, which is the time electric impulses can first be detected in the fetus' cardiac area. It was signed by Reynolds in 2018.

The six-week law was enjoined and was never enforced, because it violated a recent ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court that struck down a 72-hour waiting period and also ruled there was a constitutional right to abortion in Iowa.

The governor never challenged that ruling, saying she "saw no path to a successful appeal."

On June 17, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed a four-year-old precedent and found there is no fundamental right to abortion. Since the landscape has changed, Reynolds will "request" that the courts lift this injunction and allow the six-week ban to take affect.

Sally Frank, a law professor at Drake University with an emphasis in women's studies, does not think this is legal, since the governor never appealed the decision.

"It was a final court order that she did not chose to appeal that said that statute was unconstitutional. They could try to reenact it under the new set of case law," Frank said.

The governor's office did not respond to KWWL about that technicality Tuesday afternoon. The governor's lawyer in this case, Alan Ostergren, said he was not allowed to comment.

Another thing the governor wants is a re-hearing of the 24-hour waiting period case.

In that opinion, the court (with four new, Reynolds-appointed justices since 2018) said the state constitution should not guarantee a fundamental right to abortion.

The court went from a strict scrutiny for abortion laws back to the undue burden test established in the national Planned Parenthood vs. Casey case. However, the court was not willing to rule on the 24-hour waiting period and remanded it to the lower courts where the parties should file new arguments, and establish a legal test for judging abortion laws.

Reynolds says she will file for a re-hearing, in the hopes that the court will adopt the "rational basis" test, the least burdensome test for any pro-life state government. The U.S. Supreme Court essentially adopted the rational basis test when overturning Roe v. Wade last Friday.

After agreeing to a test for abortion laws, the lower court can issue a new ruling on either the 72-hour or 24-hour waiting period.

“Now is the time for us to stand up and continue the fight to protect the unborn,” Reynolds said. “The Supreme Court’s historic decision reaffirms that states have the right to protect the innocent and defenseless unborn—and now it’s time for our state to do just that. As governor, I will do whatever it takes to defend the most important freedom there is: the right to life.”

Democrat Attorney General Tom Miller has said that he will not be representing the state, which will instead be represented by Alliance Defending Freedom and Ostergren.

AG Miller issued the following statement regarding the Governor’s announcement:

"Our office is withdrawing from the case involving the 24-hour waiting period, or House File 594, for ethical reasons. 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. Therefore, I am disqualifying myself pursuant to Iowa Code section 13.3."

"This decision is consistent with my disqualification in the fetal heartbeat case in 2018. In that case, I stated that I could not zealously assert the state's position because of my core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women. In my nearly 40 years in office, I have declined to represent the state in only one other similar situation. I do not take lightly my responsibility to represent the state."