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Iowa Judge Puts Temporary Hold On Law Blocking Sex Ed Funding For Planned Parenthood

polk county court
Stephen Matthew Milligan
Wikimedia Commons

Updated Wednesday, May 29, 4:39 p.m.

A Polk County judge issued an order Wednesday temporarily blocking a new Iowa law from taking effect that bans Planned Parenthood from participating in two federally-funded sex education programs.

Judge Joseph Seidlin writes in his order that Planned Parenthood's loss of funding and opportunity to provide sex education harms the organization, but the state did not argue it would be harmed by a temporary hold on the law. Seidlin also writes that Planned Parenthood is likely to succeed in its legal challenge based on its claim that the law violates the Iowa Constitution's equal protection clause.    

The law won't be enforced until the courts rule on whether or not the law is constitutional. 

Original post: Friday, May 24. 

A Planned Parenthood lawyer argued before an Iowa judge Friday that a new law banning the organization from participating in two federally-funded sex education programs should be put on hold.

Attorney Julie Murray said Planned Parenthood and the six Iowa counties where it’s providing grant-funded sex education will be irreparably harmed if the law takes effect. She said Planned Parenthood would be barred from two programs for at least three years.

“The government doesn’t dispute that we are the only provider in CAPP and PREP that is serving those counties currently,” Murray said. “The defunding of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will affect services in these counties.”

Murray said the programs’ progress in reducing teen pregnancy rates could be jeopardized.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ogden said the law should not be blocked because Planned Parenthood has not proved it would be irreparably harmed. He said under the law, they could still provide sex education outside of the federal programs.

Yes, they will have to do it without the assistance of the CAPP and PREP grant money,” Ogden said. “But as far as I read it, nowhere in their petition do they say they are unable to bear that cost themselves.”

Polk County Judge Joseph Seidlin said he will soon rule on Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s request to temporarily put the law on hold.

Seidlin questioned Ogden, the lawyer for the state.

“If I don’t grant an injunction, then the grant doesn’t get made. No grant is apparently going to be made,” Seidlin said. “The services that are intended won’t be provided this year, correct?”

Ogden reiterated that Planned Parenthood could choose to continue providing sex education programs without the funding. But he didn’t dispute that if the law takes effect, the federal grants will go unused for at least a year.

This was the first hearing in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa’s challenge of the constitutionality of the law. They claim it violates free speech, free association, equal protection and due process rights.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the provision into law in early May. Republicans in the Iowa Legislature sought to block sex education funding for Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions and advocates for abortion rights.

It was already illegal for federal funding to be used for abortions. Murray said participants in these two federally-funded sex education programs must use state-provided curricula, and that the programs have “nothing to do with abortion.”

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter