Drafted SCOTUS decision opens door for abortion access limitations in Iowa

The United States Supreme Court ruled in a drafted opinion to leave abortion rights to states. Republican legislators have said they were waiting for a Supreme Court decision before enacting new legislation.


Gabby Drees

The United States Supreme Court Building is seen on Sunday, April 3, 2022.

Emily Delgado, Politics Reporter

In a leaked draft opinion, the United States Supreme Court 6-3 voted to strike down Roe v. Wade, a decision that could allow states, including Iowa, to pass laws limiting or outlawing access to abortion.

The draft opinion, obtained by Politico, was written by Justice Samuel Alito in February 2022 and argued in Dec 2021. This is the first time in modern history a judicial draft opinion has been leaked.

If the court overturns Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court decision which established a constitutional right to an abortion, the decision regarding abortion access will be left to the states. 

In a prepared statement on Tuesday, Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver indicated Senate Republicans will continue pursuing abortion restrictions depending on the ultimate decision by the court.

“Uncertainty remains about the final decision regarding abortion by both the US Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme Court,” Whitver wrote. “Despite the questions surrounding those decisions, Iowans can be certain Senate Republicans have, and will continue to lead on life.”

Following the leak of the Supreme Court decisions, Democratic Senate candidate Abby Finkenaur said in a statement she is ready to codify abortion access at the federal level if elected to the U.S. Senate. 

“We have to hold Senator Grassley accountable, and that starts with defeating him in November, abolishing the filibuster, and codifying the protections of Roe v. Wade into law immediately.” Finkenaur said. 

In 2018, the Iowa Legislature passed a law requiring doctors to test for a fetal heartbeat on anyone seeking an abortion, which was later struck down by the state’s Supreme Court. The Legislature is currently working on an amendment to the Iowa Constitution that says abortion is not protected.  

Republican leaders said ahead of the start of the legislative session in January that they were waiting for a Supreme Court decision before introducing more legislation that would limit abortion access. 

The Supreme Court is reviewing a case out of Texas that could potentially have implications for all 50 states,” Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said at a legislative forum on Jan. 7. “It could potentially return the subject of abortion back to states. I think that as a pro-life legislator, I’m standing ready to do what’s best for Iowans, but I also think that it’s incumbent upon us not to get ahead of ourselves in this conversation.”

House Speaker Pat Grassley said on a January episode of Iowa Press that the Legislature would wait for the Supreme Court’s decision to move ahead with future abortion legislation. 

“I think we need to wait and see. No one knows what the court’s going to do,” Grassley said. “It’s not like we have any secret insight that others don’t. I think we need to see what the court is, and like some other issues, be prepared to react as a Legislature and be prepared to engage.”

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn released a statement following the leak of the Supreme Court’s decision, saying Iowans have the right to choose.

“Every Iowan deserves to make the decision for themselves if, when, and with whom to have a family. And right now, Iowans still have that right. But with the latest news from the U.S. Supreme Court, the freedoms we’ve fought for decades to preserve are dangling by a thread,” Wilburn said. “Let me make something absolutely clear: the majority of Iowans and the majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal.” 

Despite the fact that a decision is drafted, justices may still change their vote.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak and the decision has had damaging consequences,” Alito wrote in the draft opinion. 

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the leaked draft. 

“Access to abortion is a constitutionally protected freedom that ensures women control their bodies and their futures,” Wahls tweeted. 

In a written statement on Tuesday, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, said she supported the decision in the draft opinion.

“If the Supreme Court does in fact rule as the leaked draft suggests, it would be a long-overdue return to fidelity to the text of our Constitution and places this issue back at the hands of the states,” Miller-Meeks wrote. “As an elected official, I have always voted to uphold the sanctity of life and to protect the unborn. Every life is precious and has value, and I am committed to continuing to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds has joined other Republican governors efforts to restrict access to abortion. Currently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill which would ban abortion after 15 weeks. At least 13 states have passed laws that would immediately ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturned Roe

At The FAMiLY Leader summit in 2021, Reynolds touted her efforts to restrict abortion rights.

“Over the years it has helped sustain and encourage me and legislators, over and over again, which is a big reason why my administration has become one of the most pro-life in the country.” Reynolds said.

Gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear, the Democrat challenging Reynolds, condemned vote on Twitter

“Tonight women across our nation are angry and they are scared. I see you,” she wrote. “Let this soak in tonight…because tomorrow we don’t mourn, we get back to work to ensure that every Iowan has access to the healthcare and reproductive care that they need.” 

The Supreme Court will formally decide to strike down or uphold Roe v. Wade by June at the latest. 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from elected officials on Tuesday. 

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