Iowa judge temporarily blocks 24-hour abortion waiting period

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An Iowa judge has temporarily blocked the enforcement of a new law requiring women to wait 24 hours before having an abortion.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the law Monday afternoon. It was set to take effect Wednesday, but District Court Judge Mitchell Turner issued a temporary injunction preventing it from taking effect until a lawsuit is resolved.

“We’re glad that patients can seek abortion care without the burden of a state-mandated delay and extra appointment,” said Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa executive director of Planned Parenthood North Central States.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland sued Reynolds, the Iowa Board of Medicine and the state of Iowa last week, asking to first temporarily block the law’s implementation and then to strike down the waiting period requirement as unconstitutional based on equal protection and due process grounds.

The law says a woman cannot have an abortion for at least 24 hours after an initial appointment. At that appointment, the woman must be given the opportunity to view an ultrasound scan of the fetus and information about abortion and other options, including adoption.

The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature passed the law in an overnight session earlier this month shortly before adjourning for the year.

A lawyer for Planned Parenthood argued at a Monday hearing that the law would have immediate harmful effects if enacted, noting more than 100 abortions have already been scheduled for or after Wednesday.

An assistant Iowa attorney general argued Monday that Planned Parenthood hadn’t met the legal threshold to temporarily block the law from taking effect while the challenge is resolved. But Turner concluded that Planned Parenthood did meet the requirements.

Turner also found that Planned Parenthood has “established a likelihood of success” on its claim that the law was passed unconstitutionally by being added to an unrelated piece of legislation at the last minute, surprising lawmakers and allowing no time for public debate. The requirement was added as an amendment to a separate bill after 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, and received a final vote in the Iowa Senate around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 14.

“Most Iowans would have been asleep by the time the amendment was passed in its final form,” Turner wrote.

Reynolds, a Republican, reiterated her support for the law at a news conference on Tuesday, a few hours before Turner issued his ruling.

“I’m going to do everything I can to defend life. I am proud to be pro-life. I believe in this piece of legislation. I want to thank the Legislature for passing it and sending it to my desk and we’re going to work vigorously to defend it,” she said.

Planned Parenthood has successfully challenged abortion restrictions in Iowa in recent years. In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a longer, 72-hour waiting period to receive an abortion in a 5-2 ruling. In the process, the court found that the Iowa Constitution protects women’s ability to have an abortion as a fundamental right.

“The Iowa Supreme Court has recognized that the right to a safe, legal abortion is a fundamental right protected by our constitution, and today’s decision protects that right,” ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said in a statement Tuesday.

In 2019, a Polk County judge ruled a “fetal heartbeat” law, which would have effectively outlawed most abortions, was unconstitutional. Reynolds, who had signed the bill, declined to appeal that ruling.

Eighteen states currently require women to wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Indiana has an 18-hour waiting period. Eight more states have longer waiting periods of either 48 or 72 hours.

And, since the 2018 decision, Reynolds has appointed four new justices to the Iowa Supreme Court. Only one justice who remains on the seven-member court was appointed by a Democrat.

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Gov. Kim Reynolds says the abortion issue was not discussed with Iowa Supreme Court nominee during selection process.

Des Moines Register

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at sgrubermil@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

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