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Iowa court blocks mandatory waiting period for abortion


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- An Iowa judge has 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.

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to have the law temporarily blocked in June 2020, which it eventually was, a day before it was set to become law.

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.

Abortion rights advocates celebrated the ruling, saying it would preserve women's access to the procedure. The state has 30 days to appeal the decision and a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office says the state expects to appeal. The Iowa Supreme Court justices have the opportunity to retain the case, but if they chose not to hear arguments, the litigation would go to the Iowa Court of Appeals.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn released a statement on the ruling.

“Iowa Republicans passed this law under the cover of darkness and without public input. We’re grateful the District Court saw right through Governor Reynolds’ unconstitutional attempt to attack the reproductive rights of Iowans.  It’s hard enough for Iowans to access health care, especially in rural communities where providers are disappearing. We will continue to stand up for Iowans’ personal health care decisions and fight back against the “tricks” Republicans use to pass harmful legislation.”

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn

In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion. The court ruled the law violated the Iowa Constitution, siding with a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

Four of the seven justices who were in the majority of that 2018 decision are no longer on the court and all four of their replacements have been appointed by Governor Reynolds.

In 2019, a district court judge ruled another piece of legislation, Iowa's fetal heartbeat law unconstitutional. The law would have banned abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks.

Earlier this year, the Iowa legislature advanced a constitutional amendment that would make it clear the state does not recognize or grant the right to an abortion. The measure would need to pass with the exact same language in the 2023 or 2024 legislative sessions before it could appear on a ballot before voters in the 2024 general election.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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