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Judge halts Iowa’s new 24-hour waiting period for abortion



Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, Jan. 15, 2019, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

An Iowa judge issued an injunction halting the state’s latest abortion restriction, a 24-hour waiting period, on Tuesday, a day before the measure was set to become law.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill Monday, but the order issued by state court Judge Mitchell Turner prevents it from becoming law until a court can determine whether it’s constitutional.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland argued in a lawsuit filed last week that law was unconstitutional in the way it was passed in the middle of the night without public debate. The group said the law also violates the due process and equal protection rights of women seeking an abortion, much like a 72-hour waiting period law the Iowa Supreme Court struck down in 2018.

Turner said the lawsuit could succeed because evidence appears to show the amendment was passed “under highly unusual circumstances.” He also said he cannot overturn the 2018 court decision and that precedent suggests Planned Parenthood may succeed on other constitutional grounds.

“The Iowa Supreme Court already has made several determinations regarding mandatory delay laws and the obstacles they present to individuals seeking abortions, and these same parties had a full and fair opportunity to litigate those issues,” Turner said.

The 2018 ruling found not only that the waiting period law violated the constitutional rights of women but that the Iowa Constitution guarantees women the right to control their own bodies, which includes seeking an abortion.

The new measure requires a woman to wait 24 hours after an initial appointment for an abortion before the procedure can be initiated. Planned Parenthood lawyers argued that may force some women to wait months to get a second appointment and incur additional costs.

The measure is the latest abortion restriction law passed by Republicans and signed by Reynolds and is clearly an effort to get it in front of a newly constituted Iowa Supreme Court in hopes it will reverse the 2018 decision.

“Maybe this will provide an opportunity for the court to rectify the terrible situation that they’ve created here in our state,” Republican Rep. Shannon Lundgren said during debate on June 13.

The two dissenters in the 2018 case, Thomas Waterman and Edward Mansfield, both Republican appointees, remain on the court, along with 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.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals when Chief Justice John Roberts sided with more liberal justices to uphold precedent set in a similar Texas case a few years ago.

Drake University Law Professor Sally Frank said Iowa abortion litigation may similarly play out.

“While the general political take of several of the justices may be more conservative than some of the justices they replaced, I believe most if not all of them believe in the rule of law and in the importance of an objective judiciary and both of those would dictate that they not overturn the earlier ruling,” she said.

Some recently appointed justices appear to lean less on precedent than others, but she said she believes a majority would not want “to create the imagery of an activist court that decides things merely by political might.”

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