Courts Reproductive Rights

Pro-Choice Groups File Lawsuit Against Iowa’s 24-Hour Abortion Waiting Period

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed a lawsuit asserting that an amendment passed by the Iowa legislature requiring a 24-hour abortion waiting period violates due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution.

The amendment requires that all those seeking an abortion wait at least 24-hours after their initial appointment with an abortion provider before receiving one. It also mandates that abortion providers distribute adoption information to their patients and conduct an ultrasound before performing an abortion. The requirements were passed at 5:40am on June 14 as part of an amendment attached to an unrelated bill. The amendment was passed on the last day of the legislative session, without public hearings or extensive debate. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who has a history of opposing abortion.

The amendment is similar to an Iowa law passed in 2018 which would have mandated a 72-hour abortion waiting period. The law was struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court. Since this ruling, Gov. Reynolds has appointed 4 new justices to the court – replacing 4 of the 5 who ruled against the 2018 law. Republican lawmakers hope that this shift in the court will lead to the new amendment being upheld.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood claim that “by imposing a delay on abortion – a delay that the legislature does not impose on any other medical procedure – the amendment conveys that the legislature believes women are not competent to make considered, appropriate medical decisions for themselves and their families…”

Erin Davidson-Rippey, the Iowa Executive Director of Planned Parenthood for North Central States, criticized the amendment and commented that although it “is billed as a 24-hour waiting period law… in many cases it will delay a person’s ability to get an abortion by weeks.” Davidson-Rippey cited the fact that many of those seeking an abortion have to drive hours in order to reach an abortion provider, and called the amendment a “political ploy to create barriers to sexual and reproductive health care in Iowa.”

Rep. Jo Oldson, the Iowa House Democratic Whip, criticized the procedure used to pass the amendment, declaring that “they’ve [Republican lawmakers] kept this plan secret for weeks and released it on a Saturday night, so they didn’t have to hear from Iowans.”

“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,” the Legal Director of the ACLU of Iowa, Rita Bettis Austen, stated. “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.” Austen went on to claim that, “precedent requires that this law be struck down.”

Sources: KKCI Des Moines 6/23/20; Iowa Public Radio 6/23/20; The Gazette 6/23/20; Courthouse News Service 6/24/20; Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa 6/23/20

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