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Planned Parenthood, ACLU Of Iowa File Lawsuit To Block Abortion Waiting Period

abortion rights supporters
Katarina Sostaric/IPR
Abortion rights supporters gather at the Iowa Capitol in May 2019.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block a mandatory 24-hour abortion waiting period from taking effect.

In the final hours of the 2020 legislative session, the Republican-led legislature introduced and passed a bill requiring Iowans seeking an abortion to attend an extra appointment at least a day before the procedure.

“The requirement of a medically unnecessary appointment prior to their abortion—which I want to note is particularly egregious in the midst of a global pandemic—it’s an enormous hurdle for people who have already made their decision to have an abortion,” said Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa Executive Director of Planned Parenthood North Central States.

She added this will lead to more than a 24-hour delay for some Iowans, and will prevent some from accessing abortion altogether. But Davison-Rippey said there’s no evidence that mandatory waiting periods lead people seeking abortions to change their mind.

The lawsuit alleges the bill violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution. It also targets the way in which the bill was introduced and passed in less than 24 hours, without a chance for public input.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has not signed the 24-hour waiting period bill into law. But she has supported and signed abortion restrictions in the past.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a 72-hour abortion waiting period in 2018 and ruled that abortion rights have strong state constitutional protections. But the makeup of the Court has changed significantly since then, with four new justices appointed by Reynolds.

Some Republican lawmakers, including waiting period bill sponsor Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, said Iowa has waiting periods for other things and this would not be an unconstitutional burden. She also took aim at the 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

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

ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen disagrees.

“We really have a tremendous independent state court system, and we have every expectation that it’s going to follow the binding legal precedent that is in place in Iowa, and that requires that the law be struck down,” Bettis Austen said.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa have won multiple abortion-related court cases in recent years. Their lawsuits have ultimately blocked a 72-hour waiting period and a ban on most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, among other restrictions.

Reynolds' spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. 

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter