Planned Parenthood Sues Iowa Over Abortion Waiting Period

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President and CEO Suzanna de Baca speaks during a 2018 news conference in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland sued Iowa on Tuesday claiming a state law passed on June 14 requiring women to wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion violates the equal protection provision of the Iowa Constitution.

Planned Parenthood seeks a temporary injunction preventing enforcement of the law that becomes effective July 1 if signed by Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican.

The Iowa General Assembly, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats but one opposed, passed an amendment in the early hours of the final day of the session that would require women seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours after an initial appointment and make a trip to a health center to receive an ultrasound and state-mandated materials.

In its complaint filed Tuesday in Johnson County Court, Planned Parenthood says the amendment offers women no benefits but will “severely and abruptly burden their access to abortion.”

This will be particularly burdensome for low-income women, victims of partner violence or sexual assault, and women seeking abortions that involve a severe fetal abnormality, the complaint states.

“By imposing a delay on abortion — a delay that the legislature does not impose on any other medical procedure — the amendment conveys that the legislature believes women are not competent to make considered, appropriate medical decisions for themselves and their families, and must instead be forced by the state to reconsider their medical decisions,” the complaint states.

“This mandatory delay reflects and perpetuates the false and discriminatory stereotype that women do not understand the nature of the abortion procedure, do not think carefully about their decision, and/or are less capable of making informed decisions about their health care than are men.”

Joined as a plaintiff by Dr. Jill Meadows, its medical director, Planned Parenthood sued the governor and the Iowa Board of Medicine, which would enforce the new law. The plaintiffs are represented by Rita Bettis Austen, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa.

“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,” Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa executive director of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said in a statement Tuesday.

“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.”

A spokesman for Reynolds did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The governor, who has repeatedly expressed her opposition to abortion, is expected to sign the bill, as she identified it as a legislative priority.

State Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, was quoted during the legislative debate as saying the 24-hour delay would cause women to change their minds about seeking an abortion. “Iowans want to see unborn lives protected,” she said. “This bill is a big step in that direction.”

The legislation requiring a 24-hour delay is a reprise of a bill passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2017 requiring a 72-hour wait. That law was struck down as unconstitutional by the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled that the right to abortion is a fundamental right under the due process clause of the Iowa Constitution.

That decision split the seven-member court 5-2. In the meantime, four justices of the court who were in the majority have been replaced by new members appointed by Reynolds.

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