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Here are summaries of some of the major cases that have recently come out of the Iowa Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court:

Iowa Supreme Court
Planned Parenthood vs. Reynolds:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled against Planned Parenthood 6-1 to defund them from receiving grants to teach sex education in our schools. The court upheld the 2019 state law that abortion providers are excluded from federal grants for teaching sex education in K-12 schools.

The two federally funded educational programs they cannot participate in are the state-administered Community Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program and the Personal Responsibility Education Program. These programs are intended to reduce teenage pregnancy and promote abstinence.

Planned Parenthood brought a lawsuit against the state in 2019 challenging our law. Polk County district court ruled in their favor. The state appealed the case.

This court ruling reverses the district court by finding that the law prohibiting abortion providers from providing sex education survives rational basis review. The court said that nothing in the legislation affects whether a woman can obtain an abortion. The court rules that the purposes of the law are all rationally related to a legitimate government interest: to express the state’s preference for childbirth over abortion, to ensure that state-sponsored sexual education messages are not delivered by entities that derive significant revenue from abortion-related activities, and to indirectly avoid subsidizing abortion providers.

I applaud this decision. There is a clear conflict of interest when abortion providers are teaching sex education to our youth. They have no financial incentive to reduce sexual involvement of teens or reduce teen pregnancy or reduce abortions. Without teens being sexually involved they cannot make money. It is in their best financial interest for teens to be sexually active. These are obviously not the goals for Iowa’s families for our youth.

Justice Dana Oxley, who was appointed by Governor Reynolds writing for the majority said, “The state could also be concerned that using abortion providers to deliver sex education programs to teenage students would create relationships between the abortion provider and the students the state does not wish to foster in light of its policy preference for childbirth over abortion.”

This case is now remanded back to the district court where the state will likely ask for a summary judgment ruling in the state’s favor.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement vs. State of Iowa:  The Iowa Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision dismissed a lawsuit brought by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and other environmental groups that asked that Iowa’s water quality regulations should be mandatory on farmers. Justice Mansfield, writing for the majority, said that the decisions regarding water quality regulations properly belonged to the legislature and the executive branches “whose duty it is to represent the public”.

This was a good decision as it upholds the approach the legislature has taken to keep water quality and soil conservation efforts voluntary. The legislature has supported and funded efforts to educate and incentivize farmers to adopt land management practices that help preserve soil and water quality. Participation has grown stronger over the years.

State of Iowa vs. Nicholas Dean Wright:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that police officers violate the 4th Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure when they go through trash set out to be picked up as garbage. Justice McDonald, writing for the majority, said it was an unconstitutional trespass on private property and violates a citizen’s “expectation of privacy”.

The minority said that people don’t have an expectation of privacy when they set their trash out for pick-up. They also pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed police to search garbage left out for pick-up and doesn’t call it a violation of the 4th Amendment. I can see why the court was split on this decision-I can see it both ways!

U.S. Supreme Court
Biofuels Case:  The U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision ruled in favor of oil refineries and against the biofuels industry and agriculture by making it easier for the refineries to get a waiver from the requirements of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). This decision is a disappointment as it doesn’t require the oil industry to abide by the original law passed by Congress setting up the RFS requiring specified amounts of biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into petroleum fuels.

Farm Property Rights:  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in a case brought in California that its state law that required farm owners to allow union organizers access to farm property to recruit workers into the union is unconstitutional. The majority said the state law deprived the farm owners of their property rights without just compensation as stated in the 5th Amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, “The right to exclude is one of the most treasured rights of property ownership.” This is a great victory for property rights, not just for farmers but for anyone who owns property.

Religious Liberty:  In a unanimous decision the U.S. Supreme Court required the city of Philadelphia to allow Catholic Social Services (CSS) to continue to serve as a foster care placement agency with the city. The court said the city cannot exclude CSS because they have a policy not to place children in same sex households. Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority said, “CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs” and that Philadelphia “violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.” Although considered narrow, this is a very encouraging ruling, hopefully signaling a stronger victory ahead for religious liberty.

But the Supreme Court disappointedly dashed hopes in another action related to religious liberty. They declined to hear the case of florist who refused to make a flower arrangement for a same sex wedding due to her religious beliefs. Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch agreed to hear the case but it requires 4 justices to agree in order for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case. The lower court’s ruling against the florist will stand.

Election Integrity:  The U.S. Supreme Court in a case brought from Arizona upheld 6-3 state election laws that limit who can return an early absentee ballot (ballot harvesting) and that disallow ballots cast in the wrong precinct. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, said this was not racially discriminatory and that the state’s interest in maintaining integrity in its elections justified these laws. This was a great decision supporting free and fair elections.

Donor Privacy: Also, in a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law allowing the state to collect the names of donors to private groups. The state can no longer collect those names, considered a victory for donor privacy and supported by groups on both ends of the political spectrum.

Obamacare:  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to keep the Affordable Care Act in place by dismissing the case brought by a number of states saying they did not have standing to sue because they could not prove the law had harmed them. Unfortunate but not unexpected.

Short Takes on News
Federal Unemployment:  Twenty-six (26) states have opted out of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Program. The states have said the reason is they have workforce shortages due to federal handouts and want people to return to work.

Border Security:  Governor Reynolds is sending Iowa State Patrol officers to the border in Texas and Arizona to assist with border security efforts. There has been a steep increase in illegal crossings, illegal drug seizures, and illegal weapons smuggled in in the past few months. A detachment of the Iowa National Guard is also currently assisting with border security.

24-Hour Waiting Period:  An Iowa district court judge struck down a 2020 state law we passed that established a 24-hour waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion. The governor is appealing the decision.

Author: Sandy Salmon