Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds Championing the Right to Life
As we mentioned in a previous post, this month Dr. William Lile, the ProLife Doc, was in Des Moines, Iowa, at the 2023 Family Leadership Summit to give a keynote address. This annual conference aims to motivate and empower Christian leaders to take action within their families, churches, and government to restore traditional values to a culture that is becoming increasingly anti-Christian and, consequently, destructive to civil society.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds also spoke at this event, and it looks like both Dr. Lile and Governor Reynolds focused on a common theme: the importance of protecting the lives of the preborn.
Recently, Governor Reynolds called for a special session of the legislature to pass a new law to protect preborn babies from abortion. Why a special session? Because the Iowa Supreme Court struck down Iowa’s “heartbeat” law that outlawed abortions after a baby’s heartbeat could be detected (at about six weeks gestation). The result is that a previously enacted Iowa law, which allows abortions up to 20 weeks gestation, was reinstated in Iowa. Governor Reynolds called for a special session to obtain quick action from the legislature on a new heartbeat law limiting abortions. The law she wanted was passed in one day. Even better, Governor Reynolds signed the legislation into law right at the Family Leadership Summit conference for all the attendees to see!
Why a New Abortion Law Was Necessary
Although the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision seemed like a severe blow to the pro-life cause, it really was not. The court’s decision was more the result of how the case reached the court than the substance of the law.
Iowa’s population generally leans pro-life, and in 2020, Iowa passed a heartbeat law. However, this was before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022. In other words, when the law was passed, Roe v. Wade was the law of the land. As a result, Iowa’s law was challenged in court, and a lower court struck it down as inconsistent with Roe‘s holding. But by the time it reached the Iowa Supreme Court, Dobbs had been decided. This presented the Court with a sticky question: the law was likely invalid when it was passed, but it would be valid if passed today. So the court issued a 3-3 split decision. When a decision is split, the lower court’s decision stands: the new heartbeat law was struck down.
The Iowa Supreme Court’s holding was not an example of judicial activism; rather, the court took a very conservative approach. The Court reasoned that it was problematic to uphold a law passed four years ago by a previous legislature and that was likely invalid when passed. Consequently, it stated that if the current legislature were to pass a new heartbeat law now that Dobbs has been decided, the court could be assured that it truly reflected the will of the people speaking through their current legislature. The court further outlined the parameters for a new heartbeat law that would be constitutionally sound.
The court’s approach is consistent with what the U.S. Supreme Court held in Dobbs. The Supreme Court essentially stated that the U.S. Constitution is silent on the issue of abortion, so the question does not belong in the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, abortion is something that the people should decide through their democratically elected state legislatures. That is precisely why Governor Reynolds called the special session.
Although naturally disappointed with the Iowa court’s decision, Governor Reynolds took immediate action to pass a new law to protect babies from abortion. The new law will likely be upheld given that it has been passed in a post-Dobbs legal landscape; indeed, in its decision, the Iowa Supreme Court confirmed that the Iowa Constitution confers no right to abortion.
Victory for the Pro-Life Cause
Governor Reynolds has repeatedly expressed her commitment to the pro-life cause. She emphasized that Iowa would not concede ground to abortion extremists and vowed to fight for the rights and lives of preborn children.
Leaders like Governor Kim Reynolds, who do not shy away from taking a principled stand on the sanctity of life, are one of the reasons that ProLife Doc is so encouraged about the ultimate success of the pro-life cause. While there is still a long way to go, the overturning of Roe v. Wade has brought the issue much-needed attention. Before Dobbs, people had minimal ability to influence the law because Roe foreclosed most of the meaningful debates. Now that the legality of abortion has been returned to the people to act through their elected representatives, it is clear that abortion never had the popular support that its advocates claimed.
In this new environment, messages like Dr. Lile’s are more important than ever. The scientific and medical basis that supports the pro-life cause, bolstered by advancements in medicine over the 49 years that Roe was in effect, are wholly united to the Christian view on the sanctity of life from the moment of conception.