# ACLU Of Iowa



ACLU dismantles state's case for reinstating 2018 abortion ban

The ACLU of Iowa filed new legal arguments last week in Iowa’s most important pending abortion rights case. Governor Kim Reynolds is seeking to reinstate a near-total abortion ban, which a Polk County District Court found unconstitutional in 2019.

Last month, private attorneys representing the state in this litigation (since Attorney General Tom Miller declined to do so) gave the District Court one big reason to lift the permanent injunction on a 2018 law that would ban almost all abortions after about six weeks.

In a response brief filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the ACLU gave the District Court several paths to reject the state’s request.

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Governor discounts pregnant Iowans' well-being. Will Supreme Court agree?

Lawyers representing Governor Kim Reynolds have taken the first step toward reinstating a 2018 law that would ban nearly all abortions in Iowa. A Polk County District Court struck down that law in 2019, and Reynolds did not appeal the decision. A motion filed on August 11 asks the court to lift the permanent injunction, which was founded on Iowa and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have since been reversed.

In a written statement amplified on her social media, Reynolds promised, “As long as I’m Governor, I will stand up for the sanctity of life and fight to protect the precious and innocent unborn lives.”

Left unsaid by the governor, but made clear by the legal brief her team filed: pregnant Iowans’ interests have almost no value in the eyes of the state.

Will four Iowa Supreme Court justices balance competing concerns the same way?

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Tactical retreat on Iowa's abortion waiting period averts strategic loss

The ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood North Central States announced on August 5 that they will not pursue litigation challenging Iowa’s mandatory 24-hour waiting period before all abortions. The Iowa Supreme Court allowed that 2020 law to go into effect in June, when a 5-2 majority reversed the court’s abortion rights precedent and sent Planned Parenthood’s case back to District Court.

In a written statement, ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis Austen described the decision to dismiss the case as “extremely difficult.”

But the move was wise in light of Iowa’s current legal landscape. Dropping this challenge could push back by years any ruling by the conservative-dominated Iowa Supreme Court to establish a new legal standard for reviewing abortion restrictions. That could strengthen the position of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU as they fight grave threats to Iowans’ bodily autonomy.

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Transparency advocates sound alarm about draft open records rules

Longtime advocates for access to public records in Iowa expressed concern this week about new administrative rules proposed by the Iowa Public Information Board.

The draft rules would spell out requirements for acknowledging and responding “promptly” to public records requests, but would also create a new excuse for government bodies that fail to provide timely access to records. Nothing in Iowa’s open records statute, known as Chapter 22, authorizes the board’s proposed language on “unforeseen circumstances,” nor is that concept consistent with Iowa Supreme Court precedent.

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Iowa Supreme Court's abortion reversal may cast long shadow

Five Iowa Supreme Court justices allowed a 24-hour waiting period for all abortions to go into effect and opened the door to more sweeping restrictions on June 17, when justices overturned the court’s 2018 precedent that had found the Iowa Constitution protects a fundamental right to seek an abortion.

The outcome is precisely what Republican legislators were seeking two years ago, when (buoyed by unusually rapid turnover on Iowa’s highest court) they passed a law nearly identical to the one struck down in the 2018 case.

Two dissenting justices warned that the latest decision injects “instability” and “confusion” into Iowa’s legal landscape, because the court’s majority did not establish a new standard for evaluating the constitutionality of abortion restrictions. Two justices signaled they would allow almost any limits on the procedure. Three justices indicated they might be open to a similar approach, or might strike a different balance that recognizes some bodily autonomy for Iowans wanting to terminate a pregnancy.

In the words of Justice Brent Appel, the majority set forth “a jurisprudence of doubt about a liberty interest of the highest possible importance to every Iowa woman of reproductive age.”

The ruling may also undermine public confidence that Iowa Supreme Court rulings are grounded in legal analysis, rather than politics.

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Court rejects governor's motion to dismiss open records lawsuit

A Polk County District Court has rejected Governor Kim Reynolds’ attempt to have an open records lawsuit tossed without being considered on the merits. It was the third time in the past five months that a court denied the state’s motion to dismiss a suit claiming the Reynolds administration violated Iowa’s open records law.

I am among the plaintiffs who sued the governor and some of her staff in December over five unfulfilled requests I had submitted to her office, two requests submitted by Clark Kauffman of Iowa Capital Dispatch, and one request submitted by Randy Evans of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

About three weeks after the ACLU of Iowa filed the lawsuit on our behalf, the governor’s office provided most of the records we had requested (in some cases more than a year earlier). The state’s attorneys then sought to have the case dismissed as moot.

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