DES MOINES, Iowa – On Tuesday morning, April 11, 2023, a monumental spiritual and legal battle was fought at the Iowa State Supreme Court that could significantly reshape the future of abortion legislation in the state.
Outside the building, dozens of prayer warriors gathered, asking God for justice and mercy in defending life; while inside the building, attorneys presented oral arguments before the justices in a case seeking to reinstate Iowa’s Heartbeat Law, which would protect preborn babies from abortion when their heartbeats can be detected.
Iowa’s Heartbeat Law was originally passed in 2018, but it was blocked by injunction after the Iowa Supreme Court that same year asserted a “strict scrutiny” standard on laws limiting abortion. The Court’s “strict scrutiny” standard, however, was subsequently overturned by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2022, opening the door to reconsidering enforcement of Iowa’s Heartbeat Law.
What’s more, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs case in 2022 overturned a lesser, “undue burden” standard that was invented by the federal Casey decision in 1992.
At issue before the Iowa Supreme Court currently, therefore, is not only whether to reinstate Iowa’s Heartbeat Law, but also what standard the Court will use for adjudicating future abortion laws. Will the Court will adopt the now-defunct “undue burden” standard, which would place challenging and confusing limits on how Iowa can legislate abortion? Or will it adopt the “rational basis” standard, which opens the door to stricter abortion protections for preborn children?
The FAMiLY Leader’s Drew Zahn met with TFL attorneys Chuck Hurley and Ryan Benn as they left the courtroom following the oral arguments to get the inside scoop on what happened during the arguments and what it means for Iowa:
Earlier this year, on Monday, Feb. 20, The FAMiLY Leader filed an amicus – or “friend of the court” – brief with the Iowa State Supreme Court, signed by 62 Iowa state legislators, calling on the Court to reinstate Iowa’s Heartbeat Law.
Notably, another 16 Iowa senators joined a concurrent brief filed by Iowa Sen. Jack Whitver, making 78 total legislators calling for Iowa’s Heartbeat Law to finally go into effect.
“I was absolutely thrilled by the response of these legislators,” said The FAMiLY Leader Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel Chuck Hurley, one of the chief attorneys on the amicus brief. “Our team feverishly worked texts and emails to gather signatures, as legal briefs typically have a tight turnaround, and we witnessed lawmakers working right up to the last minute to get their names added.
“I count it a great honor and privilege to represent so many lawmakers,” Hurley continued. “Our legislators have a huge stake in the standard by which laws protecting preborn babies’ lives are handled by the court – and a huge stake in defending our Founders’ principle of the separation of powers. Though recent courts have asserted greater power over legislative and executive actions, the early history of our Founders’ intent is clear, and I have a good feeling this Supreme Court will get this case right.”
Though the justices typically conduct a preliminary vote and decision on the same day oral arguments are heard, the final vote and written decision often take months to be made public. The FAMiLY Leader urges your continued prayers, therefore, as we expect to hear the released opinion on the case sometime likely in June of 2023.