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Judge Strikes Down 24-Hour Abortion Waiting Period; Iowa Governor Plans To Appeal

rita bettis
Katarina Sostaric
/
IPR
A Johnson County District Court judge has permanently blocked a 24-hour abortion waiting period law from being enforced in Iowa about a year after Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa launched a legal challenge.

A Johnson County District Court judge has permanently blocked a 24-hour abortion waiting period law from being enforced in Iowa, about a year after Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa launched a legal challenge.

Republicans in the Iowa Legislature passed the law last June, which requires a person seeking an abortion to have an additional medical appointment at least 24 hours before terminating their pregnancy. District Court Judge Mitchell Turner determined that law is unconstitutional based on the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018 opinion that a 72-hour abortion waiting period is unconstitutional.

The Iowa Supreme Court has recognized that the right to a safe and legal abortion is a fundamental right protected by our Constitution,” said Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa. “And today’s decision by the district court protects that right consistent with that law.”

Judge Turner also found the way in which the legislature considered and passed the 24-hour waiting period violated the state constitution. Turner wrote that it violates the single-subject rule.

Republican lawmakers attached the waiting period as an amendment to an unrelated bill, and then debated it in the middle of the night, passing it without public input in less than 24 hours.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law last year. It was quickly blocked from enforcement on a temporary basis, and now that’s been made permanent unless a higher court changes that.

“In a court ruling issued yesterday, an Iowa District Court wrongly struck down our efforts to protect all innocent human life,” Reynolds said in a statement Tuesday. “I will be working with our legal counsel to appeal this recent decision, and I believe we can win.”

The makeup of the Iowa Supreme Court has changed significantly since the last time it considered an abortion restriction in 2018. The majority of justices on the Court were appointed by Reynolds in recent years.

Some Republican lawmakers have said they hope the Court will reverse its 2018 opinion that said abortion rights have strong legal protections under the Iowa Constitution. Abortion rights opponents are also working toward a constitutional amendment that would undermine abortion rights protections.

For now, Jamie Burch Elliott with Planned Parenthood North Central States said the court decision ensures there aren’t more obstacles in place for Iowans seeking abortion services.

“Abortion access is still available in Iowa,” Burch Elliott said. “Abortion remains safe and legal. And there are no additional restrictions or new restrictions to accessing an abortion in the state.”

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter