Des Moines, Iowa — Today the Polk County District Court ruled a state law unconstitutional because it would have blocked Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from providing state-approved sex education to young Iowans through two federal grants administered by Iowa state agencies.
The court previously issued a temporary injunction to block the law, allowing Planned Parenthood to continue to provide sex education programming during the past year. Today it issued a permanent injunction.
The law in question, House File 766, was passed by the Iowa Legislature and then signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in 2019. Two sections of it barred any organization that “provides or promotes abortion” (or that is an affiliate of or refers to such an organization) from receiving certain grant funding.
Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa Executive Director of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said, “Young Iowans deserve the information and education they need in order to make healthy decisions. And we know comprehensive sex education leads to fewer unintended teen pregnancies and decreases sexually transmitted infection rates, which are skyrocketing across the state. Today’s decision ensures that teens and young adults across Iowa will continue to have access to medically accurate sex education programs, despite the narrow and reckless policies of anti-abortion lawmakers.”
Since 2005, Planned Parenthood has used Iowa’s state-approved sex education curriculum to provide sex education to tens of thousands of Iowa youth. Planned Parenthood provides age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education at 31 schools and 12 community-based youth-serving organizations across Iowa, with a focus on areas with the highest rates of unintended pregnancies and STIs.
ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said, "We are grateful for the decision today, because we know how crucial it is to protect the Iowa teens who rely on Planned Parenthood to provide sex education and teen pregnancy prevention programming in our state. The decision recognizes that the law blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving grants to provide this programming violated the constitutional requirement of equal protection. We are privileged to support Planned Parenthood in the vital work they do every day to empower Iowans with sex education and teen pregnancy prevention programming.”
Research shows that when young people receive comprehensive sex education, they are more likely to have healthy relationships, lower rates of unintended pregnancies, and decreased need for abortion. Decades of research show that comprehensive approaches to sex education—that includes information on condoms, contraception and abstinence—effectively delay sexual activity and increase condom and contraceptive use when young people do become sexually active.
Additionally, there is broad support for sex education in the United States. More than 90 percent of parents support sex education in both middle and high school. The vast majority of parents, from all political perspectives, want this education to include topics like birth control, healthy relationships, abstinence, dating violence and assault, and sexual orientation.
The law that was struck down targeted Planned Parenthood. It was designed so the grant money could not go to any organization that provides abortion care to women or associates with a group that provides abortions. Planned Parenthood has been a trusted provider of comprehensive sex education in Iowa for decades—including nearly 15 years under one of the federal programs that the Reynolds administration attempted to defund.
As soon as Gov. Reynolds signed HF 766 into law, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa filed a lawsuit and successfully received a temporary injunction to block the law until the court could fully consider it.
Sections 99 and 100 of HF 766 barred any organization that “provides or promotes abortion” (or that is an affiliate of or refers to such an organization) from receiving PREP and CAPP grant funding. These grants support sex education and related services to youth in Iowa and require grantees to use state-approved curriculum. Planned Parenthood currently receives funding from both grants and would be excluded from the programs as a result of the new law, despite the organization’s successful track record providing sex education programs for youth across the state.
Court documents are available on the ACLU of Iowa's website.
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. For more information, please go to www.aclu-ia.org.