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The news came early last week that the U.S. Supreme Court 1973 decision on abortion Roe vs. Wade might be overturned! After nearly 50 years of watching this take our country in a wrong direction it seemed almost unreal and hard-to-believe it might actually be reversed!

An initial draft of the Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito was released to the press. It revealed in very clear terms that the court, in its Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case which dealt with the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law protecting the unborn after 15 weeks gestation, was overturning Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. It also showed that a total of 5 justices had agreed with this decision; besides Justice Alito, there were also Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.

My optimism remains cautious because this is not the final draft, only the first draft. And drafts can change before the final decision is released. Also the justices can change their vote up until the last minute. The final decision will not be released until likely the end of June.

Another element of this event is that it is a rare, as well as disturbing, violation of court procedures for a draft of any Supreme Court opinion to be released before it is officially made final. Chief Justice John Roberts was very unhappy with this leak and has called for an investigation.

In the draft, Justice Samuel Alito could not be clearer as to the decision, writing the following:

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  1. “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.
  2. Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”
  3. “It (Roe) effectively struck down the abortion laws of every single state…it represented the ‘exercise of raw judicial power’.
  4. “The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions. On the contrary an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.”
  5. Referring to breaking with precedent, “On many other occasions this court has overruled important constitutional decisions…Without these decisions, American constitutional law as we know it would be unrecognizable, and this would be a different country.”
  6. “We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

If the justices end up deciding to overturn Roe and Casey, the protection of the unborn would go back to the states. Some states would grant total protection while some would grant none; and some would be somewhere in between.

How would Iowa be affected if Roe was reversed?

Sad to say, in the immediate aftermath of a reversal of Roe, nothing would change in Iowa since abortion is legal up to 20 weeks gestation. That’s because in 2018 the Iowa Supreme Court, at that time more left-leaning than the U.S. Supreme Court, found a fundamental right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution. This basically cut off the ability of the legislature to grant even the smallest protection to the unborn.

However don’t despair….

There are 2 possibilities that things could change due to the fact that the court has changed drastically since 2018 with the appointment of 4 new justices (out of 7 total) by Governor Reynolds:

  1. The legislature passed the Protect Life Amendment in 2021. This is a constitutional amendment that overrules the Iowa Supreme Court. According to the process for amending Iowa’s constitution, it has to be passed again next year or in 2024. Then it would go before the people for a vote. If a majority vote for it, it would become part of the Iowa Constitution, and enable the legislature to pass laws protecting the unborn.
  2. The Iowa Supreme Court is now considering a case on whether to uphold the constitutionality of a law the legislature passed in 2020 that required a 24-hour waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion. Governor Reynolds and a number of us legislators are asking the court to not only uphold the law as constitutional, but also to reverse a decision the Iowa Supreme Court made in 2018 that found a fundamental right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution. If the Iowa Supreme Court would reverse that decision, that also would enable the legislature to pass laws protecting the unborn. A decision is expected this June.

So the watchword for now is “pray, wait and see.” In the meantime, I hope public pressure from the left doesn’t sabotage the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision and that the pro-life justices hold strong. And I hope the decision is released sooner, rather than later.

Author: Sandy Salmon

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