Des Moines, IA — The Iowa Supreme Court today reversed precedent and dramatically lowered the constitutional protection that Iowans have to abortion in a case challenging a medically unnecessary extra appointment and minimum 24-hour mandatory delay requirement.
The Court reversed the decision that was in favor of Planned Parenthood, striking down the two-appointment and waiting period law, but didn't take a position on whether the law should be upheld or struck down under the remaining “undue burden” constitutional protection recognized in the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland case striking down a restriction on medication abortions.
"I want to be very clear that abortion is still safe and legal in Iowa, even after today's Court decision," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. "We are deeply disappointed that the Iowa Supreme Court is abandoning women in spite of overwhelming support for abortion access. Although it is a sad day, we are here for our patients to ensure they can receive the critical care that they need. Regardless of how we each feel about abortion, the decision to have an abortion is best left to a woman and her doctor. We have a lot of work ahead of us to protect the right to abortion, and we are committed to fighting for the rights of all Iowans. We will do everything we can to protect the right to abortion."
"This law imposes medically unjustified obstacles for Iowans that will delay people who can't find the necessary transportation, time off work, or child care to enable them to obtain care under the restriction — and will effectively put abortion out of reach for many," said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "For those who are forced to carry their pregnancy to term, and for their families, this law will impose life-altering consequences."
The lawsuit, brought by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Dr. Jill Meadows, represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the ACLU of Iowa, sought for the medically unnecessary and burdensome law to be declared unconstitutional and permanently struck down.
"The Court's decision today is a devastating and shocking reversal. But abortion remains legal in Iowa and we will continue to fight to challenge the two-appointment, minimum 24-hour mandatory delay law under the undue burden standard that the Court declined to overrule today," said ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen.
"With the constitutional right to abortion under Roe threatened, Iowans are relying on the protection of our state constitution," said Bettis Austen. "The right to abortion for Iowa women is essential to their freedom, equality, health, and safety, and it's something that Iowans overwhelmingly support—now, more than ever. The government should not have the power to interfere with a woman's decisions about her own body, or with her decisions about whether, when, and how to start a family," said Bettis Austen.
"Given that the Court has reversed the injunction that was in place, Iowans will have to comply with the two-appointment law for now, although we will continue to pursue our challenge against it. We will not give up the fight to protect Iowa women’s equality and freedom. This decision reverses the district court's order blocking a dangerous and harmful restriction on vital healthcare. But make no mistake: abortion is still legal in Iowa and we are committed to keeping it that way."
The Iowa Supreme Court decision was handed down in advance of a carefully watched federal abortion rights case, Dobbs. v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. That lawsuit, which addresses Mississippi's 15-week abortion, is a direct challenge to the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision, and a decision on it is expected in a matter of days. If Roe falls, it would be up to the states to determine the future of abortion access. And, in Iowa, lawmakers have made it clear their intention is to fully ban abortion.
Link to the decision here.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides, promotes, and protects reproductive and sexual health through health services, education, and advocacy. An affiliate of America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care, PPHeartland is proud to offer a full range of high-quality services at health centers in Iowa and Nebraska.
The ACLU of Iowa is a private, non-partisan organization that fights to advance civil liberties for all. It is the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe. We work to assure the rights of all Iowans—from atheists to devout Christians, from labor unions to businesspeople and more—to make sure the constitutional rights of all are preserved.