Planned Parenthood files lawsuit against new 24-hour abortion waiting period

Bill, not yet law, latest in opponents efforts to limit abortion services

Planned Parenthood supporters gather in the rotunda of the State Capitol following a senate subcommittee hearing regardi
Planned Parenthood supporters gather in the rotunda of the State Capitol following a senate subcommittee hearing regarding Senate File 2, a bill that proposes removing the Iowa Family Planning waiver and would create a state-run organization denying funding for health providers that offer abortion services in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) chaired the subcommittee, which also included Senators Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) and Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig). (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Pro-abortion rights advocates have filed a lawsuit against the state to block a piece of legislation that creates an additional waiting requirement for Iowans seeking an abortion.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, with the ACLU of Iowa, asked Johnson County District Court on Tuesday for an injunction against a bill that requires women to wait at least 24-hours after an initial appointment before receiving an abortion.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected the sign the legislation, which was passed earlier this month. Once signed into law, it would go into effect on July 1.

“Iowa already recognizes waiting periods in the code for a reasonable amount of time to consider a life-impacting decision,” said House Human Resource Committee Chairwoman Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, during debate. She also cited the state’s waiting periods of 72 hours for a marriage license, 72 hours after a birth for an adoption and 90 days for a divorce.

In its announcement of the lawsuit Tuesday, Planned Parenthood officials criticized the additional appointment and waiting period, saying it creates unnecessary burden, especially for those who face financial, transportation and other barriers.

“It’s already hard enough for many Iowans to access abortion services, especially in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa executive director of Planned Parenthood North Central States, in a news release. “This is clearly a political ploy to create barriers to sexual and reproductive health care in Iowa.”

Opponents also stated the Iowa Legislature rushed through the final hours of the session, without public hearings and without adequate debate among lawmakers.

The rules were included on an amendment to House File 594. The Senate, which worked through the night of June 13 on this bill and other policy priorities, approved the proposal in the early morning hours of June 14.

The 24-waiting period is the latest attempt by opponents to limit abortion access in Iowa.

Most recently, in 2019, a Polk County judge ruled a fetal heartbeat law as unconstitutional. The law would have banned abortions once a heartbeat is detected in the fetus, which could occur as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

Reynolds, who signed the bill into law, did not appeal the decision.

In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a 72-hour-waiting period for abortion services. In their decision, the justices ruled the Iowa Constitution upholds the highest level of constitutional protection to the right of abortion, even greater than what exists in federal law.

“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,” said ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen, in a news release. “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.

“That precedent requires that this law be struck down,” she said.

Reynolds has appointed four new Supreme Court justices since 2018, meaning abortion opponents may find success in the higher court in the future.

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