Iowa, Kansas Supreme Courts Hand Down Opposite Abortion Rulings

Ashley Sadler

Communications Director

(Oregon Right to Life) — The Supreme Courts of Iowa and Kansas delivered opposing abortion decisions over the past week, with the Iowa Court allowing the state to enforce its protections for the unborn while Kansas’ Court struck down two pro-life laws.

The Iowa Supreme Court on June 28 handed down its 4–3 decision, reversing a temporary block on the state’s pro-life law protecting unborn babies after their heartbeat can be detected (about six weeks gestation). The decision permits Iowa to continue enforcing its pro-life law pending the resolution of a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood.

The move has been hailed as a victory for pro-life advocates and the unborn.

“Iowa took a giant step forward today in the human rights struggle to protect babies in the womb,” Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a June 28 statement. “More boys and girls will be given the right to live and the opportunity to bless their families, serve their communities, and fulfill their God-given purpose on this earth.”

“We thank Gov. Kim Reynolds, Attorney General Brenna Bird, and legislators for persisting in the fight for life and representing the people’s will to protect babies with a heartbeat,” Dannenfelser said.

RELATED: What Trump and Biden Had to Say About Abortion in the First Presidential Debate

But pro-life protections did not get the same treatment to the southwest of Iowa.

In Kansas – where the state Supreme Court declared in 2019 that Kansas’ constitution contained a right to abortion, and where voters in 2022 rejected a referendum that would have explicitly rejected the claim that such a constitutional right exists – the state Supreme Court on Friday shot down two laws aimed at protecting the unborn.

In its separate 5–1 decisions on July 5, Kansas’ highest court ruled against a law designed to protect vulnerable women and unborn babies by imposing tougher regulations on abortion facilities. The justices also struck down a 2015 law, entitled the “Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act,” that prohibited brutal “Dilation and Evacuation” (D&E) abortions. D&E abortions are performed in the second trimester when the fetus is already fully formed. In the procedure, the tiny body is gripped with sopher forceps and dismembered piece-by-piece. The body parts are then reassembled to ensure that nothing remains in the uterus after the abortion.

In the majority opinion for the decision overturning the law protecting the unborn from D&E procedures, Kansas Supreme Court Justice Eric Rosen said the decision is in line with the Court’s prior “conclusion that section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights protects a fundamental right to personal autonomy, which includes a pregnant person’s right to terminate a pregnancy.”

Justice Caleb Stegall, the only dissenter in the 5–1 opinion, called it “noteworthy that the majority cannot bring itself to acknowledge the government’s compelling interest in unborn human life.”

Stegall rejected the notion that the state constitution contains a right to abortion, bucking the Court’s 2019 finding on the issue, and argued that the majority had awarded a “regulatory reprieve to the judicially privileged act of abortion.”

And the two state Supreme Court rulings weren’t the only major abortion-related decisions to come down from high courts in the past week.

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 27 opted to remand a case concerning Idaho’s expansive pro-life law to a lower court. In the case, the Biden administration argued that Idaho’s legislation would be superseded by a federal statute in certain “emergency” situations, in which abortion, they argued, could constitute “stabilizing care.” 

READ: US Supreme Court Sends Case Concerning Idaho’s Pro-Life Law Back to the Lower Courts

Pro-life advocates had sought a clear decision from the Supreme Court in favor of Idaho’s pro-life law, but have expressed optimism that the matter will be appropriately resolved in the appellate court. The Supreme Court’s decision allowed a temporary block on Idaho’s pro-life law to once again take effect – but the federal government made numerous concessions during arguments before the Court and Justice Amy Coney Barrett noted that Idaho’s “ability to enforce its law remains almost entirely intact.”

It remains to be seen what the lower court will decide. Analysts have noted that the Idaho case could return to the U.S. Supreme Court before long.


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