An Iowa judge issued an order to end the state’s last abortion restriction, a 24-hour wait, on Tuesday, a day before the measure would take effect.
Republican governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill on Monday, but the order of state judge Judge Mitchell Turner prevents it from becoming law until a court can determine whether it is constitutional.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland alleged in a lawsuit filed last week that the 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and equal protection rights of women seeking abortion, as does a 72-hour waiting period law that the Iowa Supreme Court repealed in 2018.
Turner said the lawsuit could succeed because there seems to be evidence that the amendment was passed “under very unusual circumstances.” He also said he cannot overturn the 2018 court decision and that precedent suggests that Planned Parenthood may succeed on other constitutional grounds.
“The Iowa Supreme Court has already made several rulings regarding mandatory delay laws and the obstacles they present to individuals seeking abortion, and those same parties had a full and fair opportunity to contest those issues,” Turner said.
The 2018 ruling found not only that the waiting period law violated women’s constitutional rights, but that the Iowa Constitution guarantees women the right to control their own bodies, including 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 started. Planned parenting attorneys argued that this would require some women to wait months to make a second appointment, and this would incur additional costs.
The measure is the latest abortion restriction law passed by Republicans and signed by Reynolds, and is clearly an attempt to get it to a newly constituted Iowa Supreme Court in hopes of reversing the 2018 decision.
“Maybe this will give the court an opportunity to correct the awful situation they have created here in our state,” Republican Representative Shannon Lundgren said during the June 13 debate.
The two dissenters in the 2018 case, Thomas Waterman and Edward Mansfield, both Republican appointees, remain in court, along with four new Reynolds-appointed judges. Only one judge was appointed by a democratic governor who supported abortion rights, but that doesn’t mean the court will annul the 2018 ruling.
A divided US Supreme Court on Monday deleted a Louisiana law that required abortion doctors to have privileges granted at nearby hospitals when Chief Justice John Roberts sided with more liberal judges to uphold the precedent in a similar case in Texas a few years ago.
Drake University Law Professor Sally Frank said Iowa can play abortion disputes the same way.
“While the general political approach of several of the judges may be more conservative than some of the judges who replaced them, I believe that most, if not all, believe in the rule of law and the importance of an objective judiciary and both dictate that they don’t undo the earlier statement, ”she said.
Some recently appointed judges seem to lean less on precedent than others, but she said she believes that a majority would not want to “create the imagery of an activist court ruling cases purely by political power.”
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