Another Judicial Retention Fight Next Year?

Iowa Supreme Court photo 2013

Iowa Supreme Court photo 2013

Wouldn’t you have thought that after 3 judges were replaced by the new Terry Branstad that he and his party would pretty much get their way in the Iowa Supreme Court? Thus after appointing all the members of the Iowa Board of Medicine and having them go after telemedicine abortions it truly looked like there would be no trouble making a ruling against telemedia abortions stick.

It is what we like to call rigging the game. Remember when Bob Vander Plaats (R-Heaven) went after the three judges that were up for retention after the marriage equality decision? They only went after the three because that is all the law allowed to be up for a retention vote at one time. The retention vote was also used to drive up right wing voter numbers in an off year election. After a vicious campaign all three judges were escorted unceremoniously from the chambers and shiny new Governor Terry Branstad took to the task of replacing them.

The nomination and confirmation process was relatively uneventful. With a majority of the Court appointed by Branstad it surely might give one to think that Republicans may have a sympathetic ear in the chamber.

They appeared not to count on the integrity of the judges. Well, much as in the marriage equality case, the justices voted 6-0 that if you allow something for one citizen, then you must allow it for all. Oddly, this is in the Iowa Constitution. That is the guideline used by the justices. Always has been.

Here is an excerpt from the Quad City Times that lays the issue out succinctly:

“When Branstad’s appointees to the Iowa Board of Medicine outlawed the practice, Planned Parenthood of Iowa filed suit, claiming the selective ban was aimed squarely at discriminating against women, the only gender that would seek this prescription.

The Board of Medicine never discussed other applications of telemedicine. Its ban focused only on prescriptions of abortion-inducing drugs.

The Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling agreed with standards from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists affirming the practice safe. The court ruled: “In their view, the medically necessary information a physician needs to determine whether to proceed with a medication abortion is contained in the patient’s history, blood work, vital signs, and ultrasound images—which can be accessed by reviewing the patient’s records remotely or in person.”

Further, the court said Branstad’s board, “imposes some burdens that would not otherwise exist,” for women seeking these services.”

For those who heard a clip of Branstad’s reaction Monday morning he sounded like he had just been cheated by a business partner. He was sounded stunned and betrayed. At the end he brought up the possibility of a judicial retention fight by saying he wouldn’t be looking for judicial fight:

“I do respect the fact that the judiciary is a separate branch of government and the ultimate decision is with the people of Iowa as to whether they want to retain the judges or not,” the governor said. “So the position that I have consistently taken is not to advocate for or against the justices that are up for retention.”

Many folks forget that following the loss of their seats Justices Ternus, Baker and Streit were awarded a John F. Kennedy ‘Profiles in Courage’ award. At the ceremony Caroline Kennedy noted:

The three judges are interesting and courageous on many levels, … Like many of the people who get this award, they don’t consider that they are doing anything particularly courageous, they just feel they’re doing what’s right, they’re doing their job.

Have to wonder if we will have a repeat in 2016.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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