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Iowa governor signs 24-hour abortion waiting period into law
© WikiMedia (James McNellis)
Iowa governor signs 24-hour abortion waiting period into law

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Monday signed into law a 24-hour waiting period for abortions. The law has already been challenged by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa.

The law, House File 594, created a section limiting the court’s ability to order the withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures for a minor child over the objection of the parents or guardians unless there is conclusive medical evidence that the child has died or signs of life are false artifacts. Alongside this provision, the law also amended an existing clause by instituting a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for all abortions in Iowa. In a statement, the Republican governor said, “I am proud to stand up for the sanctity of every human life,” and, “I applaud the Iowa lawmakers who had the courage to stand strong and take action to protect the unborn child.” The changes are currently scheduled to take effect on Wednesday.

However, immediately after the passage of the law last week, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa announced that they would be challenging the law. In their statement, they noted, “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.” They continued by saying, “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.”

The lawsuit is seeking a declaratory judgment, emergency temporary injunctive relief from the law while the litigation is pending, and permanent injunctive relief from similar efforts in the future. The suit leans heavily on the Supreme Court of Iowa’s 5-2 decision only two years ago to strike down a similar law requiring a 72-hour waiting period for abortions. That ruling held that a mandatory delay was a violation of Iowa’s Constitution because such restrictions were not “narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest of the state.”

Reynolds’ decision to sign the bill into law came during the court’s deliberation on the efficacy of an injunction against it taking effect. Judge Mitchell Turner heard arguments from Alice Clapman, an attorney for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Thomas Ogden, arguing for the state. The court has not yet announced its decision on the injunction, but, regardless of the outcome, either side is expected to appeal the issue all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. The controversy also came to a head the same day that the US Supreme Court struck down in favor of striking down a Lousiana law limiting abortion access.