The Family Leader President Calls for Ouster of Iowa Supreme Court Justices After Abortion Decision - Word&Way

The Family Leader President Calls for Ouster of Iowa Supreme Court Justices After Abortion Decision

The president and CEO of a prominent conservative group is calling for three Iowa Supreme Court justices to resign or be impeached or ousted for ruling against allowing Iowa’s six-week abortion ban to take effect.

Bob Vander Plaats is CEO of The Family Leader, a conservative advocacy organization. He appeared July 9, 2021, on “Iowa Press.” (Screen shot from Iowa PBS)

The comments come after the court failed to let the 2018 “fetal heartbeat” law take effect. Justices were divided 3-3, with one justice recusing herself. A tie means the district court ruling which blocked the abortion law was automatically upheld.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she and GOP legislative leaders are “reviewing our options” for how to move forward, with the potential to bring forward an abortion bill during a special session this summer or in the 2024 legislative session.

Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the Family Leader, an Iowa-based Christian conservative group, weighed in on Twitter Saturday. He said the justices who opposed restoring the law “have shown blatant disrespect for the constitution, the people’s representatives and we the people.” He called for the three justices to leave or be removed from their position on the state’s highest court.

Vander Plaats spoke more about his position Monday on the Steve Deace Show, a conservative talk show. He pointed out that the three justices who supported lifting the injunction called their colleagues’ decision “judicial activism.”

Under Iowa’s constitution, a two-thirds majority of the Iowa House can impeach supreme court justices for “misdemeanors in office.” Justices, like other Iowa judges, are also periodically subject to a retention vote on the general election ballot. Retention votes are supposed to be focused on the “professional competency” of the judge, according to the Iowa Supreme Court’s website.

Vander Plaats disagreed with the Des Moines Register’s characterization of his position as “politicizing the courts.”

“When the Des Moines Register comes at me, which they did, … saying you’re politicizing the courts again … Listen, we’re not politicizing the court by them going outside of the constitutional parameters that they are politicizing the court,” Vander Plaats said.

Vander Plaats said holding a special session to pass legislation restricting abortion would be “very smart move” for Iowa Republicans if Reynolds and lawmakers are able to reach an agreement. He said the bill could be exactly the same as the measure passed in 2018.

“It doesn’t have to be six weeks in one day, it can be the same heartbeat legislation, and say listen, we mean it so much we’re passing it again,” he said. “And let it go through the process and the system.”

Vander Plaats accused the three Republican-appointed justices of overstepping their authority by saying they are going to protect human rights.  “… That’s not your job. Your job is to stick to the Constitution. And why don’t you protect the sanctity of human life at all cost.”

Iowa Justice Thomas D. Waterman wrote in the Friday decision that a similar measure to the fetal heartbeat bill could take effect following the Iowa and U.S. Supreme Courts’ decisions to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion. However, Waterman also wrote that the six-week ban remains unconstitutional under the “undue burden standard,” which remains the current governing standard for abortion laws in Iowa.

His opinion was joined by Justices Edward Mansfield and Chief Justice Susan Christensen.

Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said in a news conference Friday that GOP lawmakers and leaders will “stop at nothing” to ban abortion.

“We certainly don’t know what path they will take in order to take away Iowans’ bodily autonomy, but we know that they’re gunning for their spot in the exam room,” Stilwell said. “They want to insert themselves where politicians and judges do not belong. … So whatever fight that brings our way, we will be there ready to show up and ready for stand to stand up for what Iowans truly want.”

This is not the first time Vander Plaats has rallied against Iowa Supreme Court justices over a ruling that goes against conservative principles. In 2010, the conservative leader spearheaded the campaign to remove three justices for the court’s unanimous ruling in 2009 that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa. All three were ousted in the 2010 midterm election, with the defeated judges calling for Iowans to defend Iowa’s court system against the influence of out-of-state money from special interest groups.

Deace, the talk show host, asked Vander Plaats again on his stance on legal gay marriage following a June Gallup poll finding support of recognizing gay marriages was lowest with Republicans at 49% and weekly churchgoers at 41%. The poll, conducted May 1 through 24, found 71% of Americans overall support legal same-sex marriage.

Vander Plaats said he tried to “warn” people about how legalizing gay marriage could lead to legalization of pedophilia and polygamy, as well as saying same-sex marriages could lead to a person questioning their gender identity.

“This is happening because you unraveled the institution of marriage,” Vander Plaats said. “And when you go away from God’s design has created order, you’ll get division, you’ll get chaos, and you’ll get the garbage that we’re seeing.”

Pedophilia and polygamy have not been legalized in Iowa. Vander Plaats and the Family Leader could not be reached for a comment Monday.


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