Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is calling the legislature back for a special session next week to pass abortion restrictions after the state Supreme Court deadlocked on a six-week ban last month, keeping the procedure legal in the state.
Reynolds mentions the deadlock specifically in a Wednesday statement.
“This lack of action disregards the will of Iowa voters and lawmakers who will not rest until the unborn are protected by law,” she said, using anti-abortion rhetoric.
Per a Des Moines Register poll published earlier this year, 61 percent of Iowans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to the 35 percent who think it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Still, Republicans enjoy a majority in the state House and a supermajority in the state Senate, making the passage of further abortion restrictions likely.
Last month, the Iowa Supreme Court split on whether to revive the six-week ban, keeping it blocked. One justice on the seven-member court had recused, allowing for the draw.
The Iowa legislature had passed the ban pre-Dobbs, back in 2018, and it was permanently enjoined by a state court a year later. Legislators were trying to dissolve that four-year-old injunction, a maneuver that the state Supreme Court blocked with its split.
“This case is extraordinary,” wrote Justice Thomas Waterman, joined by two other justices in voting to not revive the bill. “It involves the polarizing issue of abortion, and specifically an unprecedented effort to judicially revive a statute that was declared unconstitutional in a never-appealed final judgment four years ago.”
That left abortion legal in Iowa for up to 22 months, per the Guttmacher Institute.
But the fate of a new abortion ban in the state would be uncertain. All seven of Iowa’s Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican governors, though this court tends to be one of the last remaining vestiges where Republican lean doesn’t necessarily dictate judicial results (imagine a Republican appointee on, say, the U.S. Supreme Court rooting an abortion decision, even in part, in a “woman’s interest in autonomy and dominion over her own body”).
Still, a key part of that 3-3 deadlock came from the novelty of the lawmakers trying to revive a law that had been blocked for four years, when they didn’t contest the ruling at the time. That bizarre fact pattern won’t apply to a likely new law.