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GOP Lawmakers Enact 24-Hour Waiting Period For Abortion

John Pemble/IPR FILE

The Republican-led Iowa legislature has voted to establish a 24-hour waiting period for abortions performed in the state.

Two years ago, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled a 72-hour waiting period was unconstitutional. During debate late Saturday night, Representative Shannon Lundgren of Peosta made it clear Republicans aim for this new proposal to reverse that.

“Maybe this will provide an opportunity for the courts to rectify the terrible situation that they’ve created here in our state,” Lundgren said.

The chief justice who wrote in the 2018 opinion that Iowa women had a right to an abortion under the Iowa Constitution died in November. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has now appointed a majority of the justices in the Iowa Supreme Court. It raises the possibility the court might overturn the previous ruling that has essentially blocked all legislative attempts to restrict access to abortion.

Senator Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, said the bill sends a clear message to the Iowa Supreme Court about that 2018 ruling.

“The very notion that somehow there’s a fundamental right in Iowa’s constitution is one of the most gross misuses of the power of the gavel,” Chapman said.

Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the money the state has spent litigating the abortion issue would be better spent elsewhere.

“We are talking about an issue that we are not going to solve tonight,” Mathis said. “We may never solve this issue in our lifetime, but we can help kids with mental health in our lifetime.”

The 24-hour waiting period emerged as a policy option for GOP lawmakers Saturday after it became clear a proposed constitutional amendment relating to abortion could not pass the Iowa House. Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines and all but one Democrat in the legislature voted against the bill.

“The interesting thing about it: it’s a 24-hour waiting period and you didn’t even give women 24 hours notice that you would be stripping them of their rights,” Petersen said.

The proposal requires a doctor to get written certification from a woman that she is eligible to obtain an abortion, 24 hours before one is performed. According to Representative Sandy Salmon, a Republican from Janesville, 17 other states have 24 hour waiting periods for an abortion.

“Waiting periods help ensure that decisions are made not under duress and under undue influences,” Salmon said.

Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, argued legislators shouldn’t “second guess” the medical decisions women make.

“It is presumptuous, disrespectful and in my opinion insulting,” Lensing said.

Representative Heather Matson, a Democrat from Ankeny, said requiring two medical appointments within 24 hours creates hardships for poor women and for women from rural areas who have to travel a greater distance.

“The intent of a 24 hour ban is the same as a 72 hour ban…Make it harder for a woman to get the care she needs and she just won’t get it,” Matson said.

The bill passed the House late Saturday evening as Democrat Andy McKean joined 52 Republicans in voting yes. Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, opened Senate debate on the measure shortly before 4:30 this morning.

“Iowa has a three-day wait for marriage, a 72-hour waiting period after birth for adoption, 90 day waiting period for divorce,” Schultz said. “All of these waiting periods are to ensure Iowans who are making life-long decisions have time to reflect.”

The bill passed the Senate shortly after 5:30 Sunday morning. Governor Kim Reynolds has not commented publicly on the measure, but she has supported previous abortion restrictions and signed the state’s so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill into law in 2018.

Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa Executive Director for Planned Parenthood North Central States, issued a written statement, saying “in the midst of a pandemic and continued momentum for Black Lives Matter,” Republican legislators “remain determined to make it more difficult for Iowa women to obtain reproductive health care.”