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A judge permanently blocked an Iowa anti-abortion law. Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty Images
A judge permanently blocked an Iowa anti-abortion law. Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Judge permanently blocks new Iowa law requiring 24-hour wait before an abortion procedure

The law was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds back on June 29, 2020, and has been challenged in court ever since.

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An Iowa judge has permanently blocked a state law that requires women to wait 24 hours before undergoing an abortion procedure.

In his order, which was filed in the afternoon of Monday, June 21, District Court Judge Mitchell Turner ruled that the 2020 law is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

 Turner cited two reasons as to why this law cannot be enforced. Firstly, the legislature violated the “single-subject rule” of the Iowa Constitution when lawmakers passed the measure as an amendment to an unrelated bill. Secondly, the law also violates a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that protects reproductive freedom. 

The law, which was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday, June 29, 2020, was opposed in court by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

In a statement, Reynolds, a Republican, emphasized her values for the sanctity of human life. 

“I applaud the Iowa lawmakers who had the courage to stand strong and take action to protect the unborn child," she said.

The following day, Turner placed a temporary injunction on the law, blocking it just before it was set to take effect on July 1. Monday’s order makes that injunction permanent. 

At a press conference on Tuesday, June 22, Jamie Burch Elliot, the Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood North Central States said the law was not only harmful, but “medically unnecessary.” 

"Once again, the court righted a legislative overreach related to abortion care, and the court’s decision means access to safe and legal abortion in Iowa remains unchanged," Burch Elliott said.

Iowa lawmakers introduced the 24-hour waiting period late in the 2020 legislative session, adding it to a bill related to providing life-sustaining medical care to minors. 

Despite House Speaker Pat Grassley initially finding it an irrelevant amendment to the medical care bill, the House voted to suspend its rules and passed the measure late at night on June 14, 2020. Early the next morning, the Senate voted to pass the measure. 

This process, according to Turner, was an infringement of the state’s constitutional “single-subject rule,” which requires that each law cover only a single topic. 

The last-minute legislative actions denied both legislators and the public the appropriate time to voice their opinions and deliberate on the proposal, Turner wrote in Monday’s order.

Rita Bettis Austin, Legal Director of Iowa’s ACLU chapter, said at Tuesday’s conference that many legislators were shocked when the abortion amendment was brought to the floor. 

"There’s a process that we go through when we pass a bill into law so that everyone who has a right to take part in that democratic process, which includes us, can do so and contact our representatives," Austin said. 

This decision comes as GOP-dominated states across the U.S. have moved to enact laws that restrict access to abortion. Turner’s order is the most recent defeat for Iowa on the issue. 

Iowa bans most abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy and South Carolina, Oklahoma and Idaho have implemented bans as early as the onset of a fetal heartbeat. 

“Thankfully, the court's decision protects access to safe and legal abortion for now," Burch Elliott said in a statement released Tuesday. 

"But the decision also underscores why it's crucial that our state constitution continues to protect the right to abortion—and that's why we must fight the proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment that lawmakers are currently trying to push through at the capitol."

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