DES MOINES, Iowa – Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Dr. Jill Meadows filed a lawsuit in state district court to block the 24-hour abortion waiting period passed by the Iowa Legislature at the end of the session. Representing the plaintiffs are attorneys from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and ACLU of Iowa. 

HF 594, expected to be signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds states, “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.” When signed into law, it will go into effect on July 1. The plaintiffs seek a temporary injunction to prevent that from happening.

The abortion waiting period language was added to a bill that also 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.”

State Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, the floor manager for the amendment that added the waiting period language to the bill, said it was based on the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In that ruling, 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 argued during floor debate.

“This legislation is billed as a 24-hour waiting period law, but make no mistake—in many cases, it will delay a person’s ability to get an abortion by weeks,” said Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa Executive Director of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “Many of our patients must drive four or more hours one-way for abortion services, so this legislation will only create more hurdles to getting care. It’s already hard enough for many Iowans to access abortion services, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. This is clearly a political ploy to create barriers to sexual and reproductive health care in Iowa.”

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for Life, said the lawsuit showed how extreme Planned Parenthood is.

“Planned Parenthood is extreme. This lawsuit reveals that. Deciding to end the life of your unborn child is a decision that is unlike any other decision a woman will make. It is reasonable to allow that woman time to fully consider all her options. We have many waiting periods in our Iowa law,” she said.

“As a former Adoption Coordinator for Catholic Charities, birth mothers were given 72 hours before having to sign termination of parental rights papers. And that is because we realize the enormity of the decision. This lawsuit reveals what we already know to be true- Planned Parenthood is more concerned with profit over the well being and care of women and families of Iowa,” DeWitte added.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down Iowa’s 72-hour waiting period in 2018. They ruled that the waiting period before an abortion violated Iowa’s due process clause and equal protection clause, thus finding a right to abortion in the state constitution.

“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. “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. Iowans are tired of these endless attacks on the fundamental constitutional right to abortion. This law is all the more shocking in light of the public health and economic crisis Iowans are contending with, because it puts the health of patients, health care providers, and the community at greater risk of coronavirus at a time when Iowans are asking their elected representatives for help just to make ends meet and protect them and their loved ones from COVID-19.”

Tom Chapman, executive director for the Iowa Catholic Conference, defended the waiting period and noted a potential legal opportunity.

“The 24-hour waiting period is good public policy and unquestionably constitutional at the federal level. In addition, polls show two-thirds of Americans support a 24-hour waiting period. If the issue gets to the Iowa Supreme Court we would encourage the Court to revisit tis 2018 decision finding a fundamental right to an abortion,” he said.

Lundgren, during the Iowa House floor debate over the bill, also saw a potential opportunity at the Iowa Supreme Court.

The make-up of the court has changed. Gov. Kim Reynolds made four 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.

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