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Iowa court blocks mandatory waiting period for abortion

Grant Schulte
Associated Press
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An Iowa judge blocked a state law that would have imposed a 24-hour waiting period before women could get abortions, likely setting up a legal battle before the state Supreme Court.

Judge Mitchell Turner ruled Monday that because legislators passed the law last year as an amendment to an unrelated bill, it violated the Iowa Constitution’s single-subject rule, which requires amendments and bills to naturally relate to one another. Furthermore, he found that the law also ran afoul of a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that protects abortion rights.

Abortion rights advocates celebrated the ruling, saying it would preserve women’s access to the procedure and remove a barrier for those who want to terminate their pregnancies.

“The court righted a legislative overreach related to abortion care,” said Jamie Burch Elliott, executive director for public policy for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, which was a party to the lawsuit challenging the law.

A spokesman for the Iowa attorney general’s office said the state plans to appeal.

The law was championed by abortion opponents, including Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. In a statement on the day she signed it, Reynolds said she was “proud to stand up for the sanctity of every human life.”

The law would have required a woman to wait 24 hours after an initial appointment for an abortion before the procedure can begin. Planned Parenthood lawyers argued that it might force some women to wait months to get a second appointment and incur additional costs, which would be particularly burdensome for low-income women.

Turner previously issued a temporary order to prevent the law from taking effect while it was being challenged in court. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the law during a middle-of-the-night session last year, drawing criticism from abortion rights supporters that the measure wasn’t subjected to adequate public input.

“The court finds the amendment was clearly logrolled with other legislation, since the amendment was attached to a non-controversial” measure regarding the withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures from a minor, Turner said in his Monday ruling.

Some legislators have said they hope the case would go to the Iowa Supreme Court, which has become decidedly more conservative since its 2018 decision striking down a 72-hour abortion waiting period.

The two dissenters in the 2018 case, Thomas Waterman and Edward Mansfield, are both Republican appointees and remain on the court. They have been joined by four new justices appointed by Reynolds. Only one justice was appointed by a Democratic governor who supported abortion rights, but that doesn’t ensure the court will overturn the 2018 ruling.

This story was corrected to delete an erroneous reference to the ruling being issued Tuesday. It was issued Monday.

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