Key Iowa Conservative Says Justices Who Blocked Abortion Ban Should Be Ousted

(Radio Iowa) A leader in the successful 2010 effort to kick three justices off the Iowa Supreme Court says it may be time for a similar move after the current court deadlocked, preventing a six-week abutilon ban from taking effect in Iowa. Bob Vander Plaats, the president and CEO of The Family Leader, campaigned against the retention votes for three Iowa Supreme Court justices who joined the court’s unanimous 2009 opinion legalizing same-sex marriage.

“Here we go again,” Vander Plaats told Radio Iowa. “When you have justices aren’t staying in their lane when it comes to the separation of powers — in the words of the other three justices, they’re trying to be a super-legislature.” Republican lawmakers passed a so-called fetal heartbeat law in 2018 to ban most abortions in Iowa, but due to court rulings it never took effect. The three justices who kept the blockade in place are not up for a statewide retention vote until 2028. Vander Plaats says there are options before that.

“I don’t know what the legislature’s going to do or what the governor’s doing to do, but I think a special session has to be part of the discussion. Bring everybody back, pass ‘heartbeat’ so that the Supreme Court knows this is not a hypothetical and then run it back through the court system and hopefully this time they stand by it. They uphold (the six week abortion ban),” Vander Plaat says. “If they continue to stand by their previous ruling, then they’re trying to be a super-legislature, then you have to have the option of impeachment on the table.” Impeaching an Iowa Supreme Court justice requires a vote in the Iowa House, a trial in the Iowa Senate and then two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote for impeachment. Republicans currently hold the required 34 seats. Last June, both the United States and the Iowa Supreme Courts ruled there was no constitutional right to an abortion and Governor Reynolds asked the state supreme court to reconsider the six week abortion ban she signed in 2018.

“I think Governor Reynolds and the legislature have every bit of a leg to stand on when it comes to being irate,” Vander Plaats says. “…After the Iowa Supreme Court corrected itself and said there is no (state) constitutional right to an abortion and then a week later the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade and throws the issue back to the states, this law should have stuck.” A spokeswoman for Iowa’s Justice Not Politics coalition says Vander Plaats is hyping the issue to gain more steam for Republicans heading into the 2024 election. Connie Ryan, who is also executive director of the Iowa Interfaith Alliance, says Iowans support a fair and impartial justice system and just because you disagree with a ruling does not mean the justices aren’t qualified to remain on Iowa’s Supreme Court. All seven members of the Iowa Supreme Court have been appointed by Republican governors. Edward Mansfield and Thomas Waterman — two of the justices who blocked implementation of the six week abortion ban — were appointed in 2010 by Governor Terry Branstad. Governor Kim Reynolds appointed the third, Chief Justice Susan Christensen. Another justice who could have been the tie breaker in the three-to-three decision recused herself from the decision.