On acknowledging victims as we reform felon voting restrictions

Matt Chapman reports from the first legislative hearing on a constitutional amendment to change Iowa’s felon disenfranchisement system. -promoted by Laura Belin

Despite record low temperatures outside, the room was packed for the January 31 Iowa House Judiciary subcommittee meeting to consider House Study Bill 68, a constitutional amendment proposed by Governor Kim Reynolds.

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Country's strictest abortion ban fails first Iowa court test

Iowa’s law banning most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected violates the state constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process, Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert ruled on January 22.

The Iowa Supreme Court will almost certainly agree that the law is unconstitutional. But it is unclear whether the high court will keep its decision grounded in the Iowa Constitution, as the District Court did. If the Iowa Supreme Court strikes down the law citing provisions of the U.S. Constitution, they will open the door to appeal in the federal courts.

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66 photos from Keep Families Together rallies in Iowa

Despite heat advisories across most of the state, at least 2,000 Iowans turned out for rallies and marches on June 30 to oppose the Trump administration’s family separation policy and demand justice for immigrants.

Like the Women’s March and similar mass protests from the past two years, the Keep Families Together events were a target-rich environment for creative political signs and t-shirts. With thanks to those who gave permission to publish their photographs here, I’ve compiled some of my favorite images from the weekend.

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How Iowa's 20-week abortion ban could be overturned

Pro-choice advocates were jubilant about the Iowa Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down a major section of a 2017 anti-abortion law.

However, the other major piece of that law remains in effect: a near-total ban on abortions beyond 20 weeks “post-fertilization.” Speaking to reporters on June 29, American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis asserted the 20-week ban is “clearly unconstitutional and a violation of women’s fundamental rights.” She declined to say whether the ACLU will challenge that provision: “We don’t forecast our litigation strategy.”

Although I am not an attorney, I am a third-generation supporter of reproductive rights in Iowa. So I’ve been thinking about how a case could get the 20-week ban before the Iowa Supreme Court.

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Iowa Supreme Court holds state constitution protects right to abortion

Five Iowa Supreme Court justices ruled today that a mandatory 72-hour waiting period for all women seeking abortion violates due process rights and equal protection guaranteed under the state constitution. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa had challenged that provision, part of a law Republican legislators and Governor Terry Branstad enacted in 2017.

Today’s decision guarantees that the 2018 law banning almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected will be struck down. A lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Iowa, and the Emma Goldman Clinic is pending in Polk County District Court.

In addition, the ruling indicates that even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in the coming years, Republicans will be unable to ban or severely restrict abortion rights in our state.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Mark Cady rejected the “undue burden” standard for evaluating abortion restrictions, set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1992 Casey decision. I enclose below the full text of the majority opinion and the dissent by Justice Edward Mansfield, whom President Donald Trump has named as a possible U.S. Supreme Court pick. I’ve excerpted some of the most important passages.

A separate section of the 2017 law, banning almost all abortions after 20 weeks gestation, was not challenged in this case and remains in effect.

Some Iowa judicial trivia: today marks the second time the Iowa Supreme Court has overturned an abortion-related ruling by Polk County District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell. He had also upheld the administrative rule banning the use of telemedicine for abortion. The Supreme Court unanimously struck down that rule in 2015.

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