Courts Reproductive Choice

Latest Iowa Abortion Restriction Blocked by Judge

Iowa’s latest abortion law, requiring an unnecessary waiting period before having an abortion, has been temporarily blocked by an Iowa judge. The law was set to go into effect on Wednesday.

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law on Monday. It states that a patient must endure a 24-hour waiting period after an initial appointment before undergoing the procedure. They are also required to view an ultrasound scan and be given information about alternatives, like adoption, before receiving an abortion. The law was passed by the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature in the middle of the night last month, with very little debate.

Johnson County District Court Judge Mitchell Turner issued an injunction on Tuesday to halt the restriction before it could take effect. ACLU and Planned Parenthood officials also filed a lawsuit, stating that the way the law was passed was unconstitutional. Furthermore, the groups argued it goes against a previous 2018 ruling on waiting periods.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a 72-hour waiting period law in 2018, finding that it violated the constitutional rights and equal protection rights of Iowans seeking abortions. “The Iowa Supreme Court only two years ago ruled that a law precisely like this one violated the fundamental rights of Iowans to seek an abortion,” ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said in a statement. “It recognized in that decision that mandatory delays and additional trips to the clinic don’t change people’s minds—they only serve to try to shame women and put obstacles in their way. That precedent requires that this law be struck down.”

While the law is set to undergo further hearings to determine whether or not it’s constitutional, Turner believes the lawsuit could succeed. “The Iowa Supreme Court already has made several determinations regarding mandatory delay laws and the obstacles they present to individuals seeking abortions, and these same parties had a full and fair opportunity to litigate those issues,” he said.

Some expect the litigation to play out similarly to the latest U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling, where Chief Justice John Roberts upheld precedent to strike a Louisiana law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Although some of the Iowa justices from the 2018 ruling have been replaced with more conservative justices, it is possible that they may side with precedent in this case. Drake University Law Professor Sally Frank believes that most justices would not want “to create the imagery of an activist court that decides things merely by political might.”


Sources: The Hill 6/30/30; AP News 7/1/20

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