DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Legislature passed a 24-hour waiting period for abortion during a final floor debate marathon that concluded the 2020 legislative session over the weekend.
The Iowa House passed an amendment filed by State Reps. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, and Anne Osmundson, R-Volga, to HF 594.
HF 594, known as Alfie’s Bill, prevents courts from having the authority to withdraw life support from a minor over the objections of their parent or guardian unless there is “conclusive medical evidence” that the child has died and “any electronic brain, heart, or respiratory monitoring activity exhibited to the contrary is a false artifact.”
The amendment to the bill reads: “A physician performing an abortion shall obtain written certification from the pregnant woman of all of the following at least twenty-four hours prior to performing an abortion.”
The Iowa House initially passed HF 594 in 2019. The Iowa Senate took up that bill and offered an amendment that, in essence, did not change anything with the bill, and passed it 31 to 16. The Iowa House could reconsider the bill, which allowed them to amend the Senate’s amendment. The Iowa House passed their amended version of the bill by a 53 to 42 party-line vote late Saturday night. The Iowa Senate then passed the House’s version by a 31 to 16 party-line vote early Sunday morning.
While introducing the 24-hour waiting period amendment, Lundgren said it was based on the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where they found that a 24-hour waiting period was not an “undue burden.”
“Twenty-seven states have waiting periods before abortions, and Iowa has a three day waiting period for a marriage license, 72 hour waiting period after a birth for an adoption, and a 90 day waiting period for divorce. Iowa already recognizes waiting periods in the code for a reasonable amount of time to consider a life-impacting decision. Twenty-four hours is not an unreasonable amount of time to think about a decision that impacts more than just one life,” she added.
Salmon argued that the waiting period is to ensure a woman is not under duress or undue influence pressuring her to decide to abort.
“It is hoped that after taking time to consider it, a woman would choose life over death. Iowans prefer life over death,” she said.
State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said that she trusts Iowans to “make the right decision.”
“I trust an Iowa woman to make her own sexual and reproductive health care decisions. Much as each of us take on the responsibility to stay safe, wash our hands, stay home when we are sick and wear a face mask. I trust Iowa women to do the right thing. Fact is Republicans trust Iowans to do the right thing except when it is a pregnant woman,” she said.
Wessel-Kroeschell stated that the waiting period language did not consider miscarriages that would require a DNC. Lundgren countered that there is a provision for a medical emergency.
State Rep. Karin Deery, D-Johnston, objected to the consideration of the bill without public input. She said the legislature should focus instead on issues such as COVID-19 and police reform to close the session.
“I trust women, not the government, not lawmakers to know when and how to make the deeply personal decision of whether to continue a pregnancy. I trust women like my friends and neighbors, relatives, and like myself, women who’ve faced an unplanned pregnancy, or the heartbreak of learning a pregnancy is not viable, or the continuing a pregnancy would put her health or life at risk. The idea that we need to insert ourselves into that very personal decision by requiring women to wait 24 hours to receive health care, that we can’t trust women to know when and how to make their own decisions about their own families and about their own futures is demeaning and insulting to women, and it’s dangerous,” she argued.
State Rep. Heather Matson, D-Ankeny, pointed out obstacles that a 24-hour abortion waiting period could place in front of some women.
“Well, here are a few things that the Iowans this will affect worry about. Not having a car or reliable transportation and having to ask someone to take them to an appointment not just once, but two days in a row. Not having enough gas money, (for) not just one, but two round trips somewhere. Looking at their bank account, and wondering how they’ll pay for that night in a hotel, or an extra few meals because a doctor’s appointment takes longer than necessary. Getting back home to relieve the babysitter and worrying that they won’t be able to get child care for the next day. These are real women’s and real Iowans’ concerns, and you need to think about them,” she stated.
Lundgren countered that no is saying the 24-hour waiting period is not a big deal.
“This is a huge deal,” she said.
Lundgren added that, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two out of three Americans support a 24-hour waiting period. She reiterated instances in Iowa law that requires a waiting period and that 27 states have waiting periods from 18 to 72 hours, including all of Iowa’s neighboring states.
The Iowa Supreme Court struck down Iowa’s 72-hour waiting period in 2018. She noted that the 24-hour waiting period added to Iowa law could provide the Iowa Supreme Court an opportunity to rectify an earlier decision. The make-up of the court has changed. Gov. Kim Reynolds made three appointments to the supreme court, and two of the dissenting justices in the decision striking down the 72-hour waiting period, Justices Thomas Waterman and Edward Mansfield, still sit on the court.
“I’d like to address the case of Reynolds v. Planned Parenthood, where our supreme court created a constitutional right to abortion here in our state. At no point has there ever been stated in our constitution that there is a right abortion. It’s never been approved by this legislative body. It’s never been approved by Iowans who get to decide what our constitution looks like. This extreme action by our courts creates a law that deeply affects the lives of Iowans and removes their voice from the discussion,” Lundgren stated.
“We look forward to the day where Iowans can have a seat at the table. And maybe this will provide an opportunity for the courts to rectify the terrible situation that they’ve created here in our state,” she added.
This bill’s passage comes after the Iowa House failed to advance the constitutional amendment that would rectify the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling.
Listen to the Iowa House debate below: