Government

Judge's ruling on Iowa sex education funding appealed by governor's office

Polk County District Court ruled state law blocking Planned Parenthood funding as unconstitutional

Supreme Court of Iowa in Des Moines. (The Gazette)
Supreme Court of Iowa in Des Moines. (The Gazette)

The Governor’s Office has asked the Iowa Supreme Court to weigh in on whether abortion providers should be able to offer sex education to Iowa youth.

On Tuesday, state officials appealed a Polk County District Court’s decision that ruled a state law unconstitutional for blocking abortion providers — namely Planned Parenthood — from receiving federal dollars for sex education programs in schools and community-based youth organizations.

“In consultation with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, we determined an appeal was appropriate,” Pat Garrett, spokesman for the governor’s office, wrote in an email to The Gazette.

House File 766, passed in 2019 by the Republican-controlled Iowa House and Senate, excluded any Iowa organization that “provides or promotes abortion” from receiving federal dollars that support sex education and related services to Iowa youth.

The law blocked the abortion provider from two federal grants that are administered by state agencies — the Personal Responsibility Education Program, or PREP, and the Community Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, also known as CAPP.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, along with the ACLU of Iowa, filed the lawsuit shortly after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law.

Last month, Fifth Judicial District Judge Paul Scott issued a permanent injunction on the state law, stating that it “violates (Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s) right to equal protection under the law and is therefore unconstitutional.”

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In a joint statement Tuesday, Planned Parenthood and ACLU of Iowa said it was “disappointing that the state will continue to try to block our ability to provide state-approved sex education curriculum.”

“We are appreciative of the district court’s strong ruling in our favor, which will be the subject of this appeal,” the statement read. “As the district court recognized, the state violated the Iowa Constitution’s promise of equal protection by attempting to block these grants. Importantly, during this appeal, we will be able to continue to provide these vital programs to Iowans in need of them across our state.”

Planned Parenthood officials said the organization has provided sex education to students in 31 schools and 12 community-based youth organizations in Iowa using state-approved curriculum since 2005.

The Family Leader, a social conservative group in Iowa, issued a statement Tuesday applauding Reynolds and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller “for continuing to fight for Iowa children.”

“We look forward to the Iowa Supreme Court affirming that the state of Iowa is not required to pay abortion providers to teach sex education,” the statement reads.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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