Iowa Justices Put Waiting Period for Abortions On Hold

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – The Iowa Supreme Court issued a stay barring enforcement of the state’s newly amended abortion law requiring a 72-hour waiting period while it hears an appeal of a lower court ruling upholding the law.

In a three-page order signed by Justice Brent Appel, the state’s high court also agreed Monday to hear the appeal on an expedited schedule, with briefs due over the next two months.

Senate File 471, signed into law in May by former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, imposes a 72-hour mandatory delay and an additional trip requirement on women seeking an abortion.

Planned Parenthood immediately challenged the constitutionality of the statute and the Iowa Supreme Court ordered a temporary injunction against it pending a hearing in Polk County District Court.

Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell ruled Sept. 29 that Iowa’s mandatory waiting period for abortions does not violate the U.S. Constitution, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v Casey.

“The Iowa Act is arguably the strictest mandatory waiting period law in the country, but the only question to the court is whether it complies with the constitutional standard,” Farrell wrote. “It does.”

Monday’s ruling reinstates the injunction while the Iowa Supreme Court rules on the appeal of Farrell’s ruling.

Planned Parenthood issued a statement Tuesday praising the state’s high court for staying enforcement of the law while the appeal is heard.

Spokespersons for current Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa attorney general have declined to make public comments on the case.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Jill Meadows MD, represented by attorneys Alice Clapman of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Rita Bettis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, called the law one of the strictest requirements in the nation on women seeking an abortion. They said it would place an undue burden on patients, particularly low-income women who have to drive long distances for abortion services.

But in his September ruling, Judge Farrell held that the clinic and its medical director did not meet the undue-burden standard set by the nation’s highest court in Casey, even though the Iowa law would require women to make a second trip to obtain an abortion.

“The Iowa Act contains an ultrasound requirement that was not present in the Pennsylvania Act reviewed in Casey,” Farrell said. “However, the primary concern with the ultrasound requirement was that the Iowa Act would force patients to make two trips to a PPH center…PPH performs an ultrasound as a matter of practice before it takes an abortion, so the law does not impose a requirement that PPH does not already perform.”

%d bloggers like this: