Iowa Democrats and Republicans lined up Monday and Tuesday to denounce or affirm a leaked ruling that would overturn a federal right to abortion.
Those looking to represent Iowans in November sounded off after the release of a draft ruling by the US Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, that would overturn both Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that protected abortion access in the country, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which ruled that a woman did not need permission from her husband to receive abortion care.
The case, which centered on whether Mississippi’s 15-week abortion law was legal, hasn’t officially been decided. But after a draft ruling of the majority opinion was leaked Monday night by Politico, many of Iowa’s elected officials and candidates for higher office began issuing statements, tweets, Facebook posts, and more.
Iowa’s top elected Republican officials, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, US Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and US Reps. Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Randy Feenstra, all previously signed onto briefs that asked the court—which has a 6-3 conservative majority—to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The Family Leader, a conservative religious organization, called it “fantastic news–an answer to decades of prayer and perseverant pro-life work,” though they called on legislators to continue the path toward a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion in Iowa, where it remains legal.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa noted in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon that “Abortion is still legal and Planned Parenthood’s doors are open,” but said the leaked opinion was “a crisis moment for abortion access.”
“The Court seems prepared to end the constitutional right to abortion,” the organization added. “We are devastated. We are furious and we will fight back.”
Gov. Reynolds reiterated her belief that abortion should be illegal.
“As we await the Supreme Court’s final ruling, our mission remains as clear as it has ever been. We are fighting to defend the most important freedom there is: the right to life,” she tweeted Tuesday.
Democratic candidate for governor Deidre DeJear tweeted Monday night that “women across our nation are angry and they are scared.”
“I see you,” DeJear continued. “Let this soak in tonight…because tomorrow we don’t mourn, we get back to work to ensure that every Iowan has access to the healthcare and reproductive care that they need.”
Sen. Grassley, up for election this fall, said on his call with reporters Tuesday he’s “had the same position for decades” regarding abortion: that he’s against it.
Three days ago, Grassley tweeted a photo of himself and Hinson at a “Right to Life” dinner in Dubuque County.
Attended the annual Dubuque County Right to Life dinner tonight w more than 500 Iowans incl Rep. Hinson pic.twitter.com/5OJYousgFo
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) April 30, 2022
And he seemed to relish his role in helping obstruct President Barack Obama’s pick for a Supreme Court justice to try and overturn the legality of abortion in remarks he made in April to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.
“We might have an opportunity here, before the end of June, for the Supreme Court—either by a 6-3 vote or a 5-4 vote—to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Grassley said April 9. “You probably remember my role in not moving ahead with the (Merrick) Garland nomination, not holding a hearing on it, because we were hoping we’d get a Republican president.
“And we did get a Republican president,” he added. “And overturning Roe v. Wade is a real possibility now.”
On Tuesday, however, his remarks were squarely focused on the leak of the draft ruling. He called it “a monumental breach of trust [within] our judicial system” in a tweet.
“The independent judiciary must remain free from political intimidation & outside influence,” he said.
His Republican primary opponent who is running to the right of him, State Sen. Jim Carlin, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon that the decision would “return to the principles this country was founded on.”
“It is my deepest hope and prayer that the Supreme Court Justices have the courage to overturn Roe v. Wade,” he wrote.
Former US Rep. Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat running for Grassley’s seat, said the news “makes me scared and it makes me sick.”
She said she would “fight to defend reproductive rights—my own rights” if elected, something she did in a floor speech in 2018 when she was in the Iowa Legislature when Republicans attempted to pass a six-week abortion ban.
"We asked for respect for women. We were met with contempt." Late last night Iowa passed an unconstitutional 6-week abortion ban, a GOP plot to challenge Roe v Wade. I fought back & need your support to take this voice to Congress. https://t.co/DP72ae3Sav pic.twitter.com/VNWeoQg3Ng
— Abby Finkenauer (@Abby4Iowa) May 2, 2018
She also blasted Grassley, her would-be Republican opponent, in a string of tweets Tuesday. She pointed out his 1983 vote in the U.S. Senate that would have allowed Congress and the states to restrict or outright ban abortion care.
Fellow Democratic candidate Mike Franken also weighed in Tuesday.
“In Chuck Grassley’s nearly 5 decades of not accomplishing anything of note, so surreal that his blatant partisan unfairness led to a Supreme Court so out of step with America,” Franken wrote. “Overturning Roe v Wade is on him. Make that your epitaph, Senator.”
Glenn Hurst, a doctor running for the Democratic nomination, tweeted: “It is time to #” a push to officially codify into the U.S. Constitution the right to an abortion.
House Democrats passed the Women’s Health Protection Act in September, which would have started that process, but Senate Republicans blocked debate on the bill. It is unlikely to get a vote given the Senate split and that two Senate Democrats are against it.
Rep. Cindy Axne, Iowa’s lone Democrat in the House, said denying the right to an abortion was “dangerous and shortsighted” in a statement.
“We already know laws that restrict access to health care do not result in fewer abortions, but instead force women to risk their lives and seek unsafe care,” she said.
She noted she voted for the Women’s Health Protection Act. After reading the draft opinion, Axne called on her Senate colleagues “to respond with urgency and pass legislation to codify Roe v. Wade immediately.”
“I will not stand idly by and let decades of progress slip away,” Axne said.
Her three Republican opponents are Nicole Hasso, Gary Leffler, and State Sen. Zach Nunn.
“As a mother, I know that every life is truly precious,” Hasso said in a statement. “I am glad to see today’s news, and if this opinion holds, it will right a terrible 50-year wrong.”
Nunn and Leffler did not seem to share a statement, but Nunn previously registered his opposition to the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling that abortion was a “fundamental right” in Iowa. Leffler previously told the Carroll Times Herald that banning abortion was “a fight we can’t afford to lose.”
In Iowa’s southeastern House district, Rep. Miller-Meeks sent a statement to reporters decrying the leak as a “betrayal of our democratic institutions.” She also noted she “always voted to uphold the sanctity of life and to protect the unborn.”
“Every life is precious and has value, and I am committed to continuing to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves,” Miller-Meeks said.
Christina Bohannan, a Democrat running to unseat Miller-Meeks, said in her career as a law professor she had read “all 200 cases on abortion in Iowa” since the 19th century.
“When abortion was illegal in Iowa, there were still many abortions. The only difference back then is that women died,” Bohannan said. “I am pro-choice because I cannot be complicit in that. We cannot go back.”
In northeastern Iowa, Rep. Hinson said “countless lives will be saved” if the SCOTUS decision became finalized.
“But our fight to protect innocent life isn’t over,” she tweeted Tuesday. “In Congress, I will continue to champion pro-life policies and support expecting mothers.”
Her Democratic opponent, State Sen. Liz Mathis, tweeted Monday night that the decision meant Congress needed to protect abortion rights.
“We don’t know the final SCOTUS opinion yet, but it’s time to codify Roe v Wade,” she said. “We must protect women’s reproductive rights and freedoms. #
“Not going back” was a theme among Democrats in the state legislature as well.
Iowa Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls said in a Tuesday Twitter statement he believed “without Roe, the freedom to choose is in grave danger” in Iowa.
“This morning, abortion is still legal in Iowa,” Wahls said, but noted, “Governor Reynolds and Republican politicians are hellbent on removing the freedom to choose from Iowa’s constitution.”
A strong majority of Iowans support safe and legal abortion. We cannot go back. pic.twitter.com/zF7coKNdzn
— Zach Wahls (@ZachWahls) May 3, 2022
“We cannot go back,” he continued, noting a “strong majority of Iowans” support a person’s right to choose to have an abortion.
That support has grown over the years, according to the Iowa Poll. It became a majority last year when 57% of Iowans said they believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Nevertheless, that was a jump of 8% from 2020. Additionally, 63% of Iowa women agree it should be legal, while 49% of men say it should not.
“Women’s rights are human rights,” Wahls said in a tweet Tuesday afternoon. “This decision by activist judges strips women’s bodily autonomy and defies all precedent.”
House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican, agreed with his grandfather, Chuck Grassley.
“Our caucus has been clear where we stand—with the unborn,” Pat Grassley tweeted Tuesday. “While we await final rulings from SCOTUS and the IA Supreme Court, we remain committed to protecting the unborn and advancing pro-life policies.”
House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst’s message on Twitter Monday night was simple: “Women deserve better.” She also released a longer statement Tuesday.
“I am angry. I am scared. And I’m ready to fight back,” she said. “Everyone deserves the right to make their own health care decisions, especially when it comes to reproductive health care. These decisions do not belong in the hands of politicians.”
By Amie Rivers
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