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The law would cause excessive hardship for low-income Iowans, many who must take time off work or school, arrange and pay for child care, and often drive hours to get health care.

Des Moines, Iowa — Today, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Dr. Jill Meadows, represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the ACLU of Iowa, filed a lawsuit in state court to stop the so-called "24-hour waiting period” bill passed by the Iowa Legislature just days ago.  The Iowa Legislature passed the forced waiting period and additional appointment requirement in the final hours of the recent legislative session, without public input and in the middle of the night.

Gov. Reynolds is expected to sign the legislation, which would take effect on July 1 unless blocked by the court. The so-called 24-hour waiting period would require people seeking an abortion to make a medically unnecessary additional clinic appointment at least 24 hours before their procedure. The additional appointment creates an unnecessary burden for all Iowans seeking this care, but is especially challenging for those who need to navigate financial, transportation, work, and child care barriers. 

"This legislation is billed as a 24-hour waiting period law, but make no mistake—in many cases, it will delay a person's ability to get an abortion by weeks," said Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa Executive Director of Planned Parenthood North Central States. "Many of our patients must drive four or more hours one-way for abortion services, so this legislation will only create more hurdles to getting care. It's already hard enough for many Iowans to access abortion services, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. This is clearly a political ploy to create barriers to sexual and reproductive health care in Iowa.” 

The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction to block the law from going into effect July 1. A temporary injunction would allow Iowans to maintain current access to abortion care.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down an identical provision less than two years ago. In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected a 72-hour forced waiting period law. The Court ruled that the government had no compelling reason to mandate the waiting period and additional appointment, and held that the Iowa Constitution affords its highest possible level of constitutional protection to the right to an abortion.

“The Iowa Supreme Court only two years ago ruled that a law precisely like this one violated the fundamental rights of Iowans to seek an abortion,” said ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen. “It recognized in that decision that mandatory delays and additional trips to the clinic don’t change people’s minds—they only serve to try to shame women and put obstacles in their way. That precedent requires that this law be struck down. Iowans are tired of these endless attacks on the fundamental constitutional right to abortion. This law is all the more shocking in light of the public health and economic crisis Iowans are contending with, because it puts the health of patients, health care providers, and the community at greater risk of coronavirus at a time when lowans are asking their elected representatives for help just to make ends meet and protect them and their loved ones from COVID-19.”

Unfortunately, House leadership resorted to procedural gymnastics to pass the forced waiting period legislation: the public was never informed about the bill and had no opportunity to contact their legislators, testify, or share their personal stories. Legislators pushed the provision through by including the new requirement as an amendment to an unrelated bill. During debate on the House floor, even House leadership agreed that that the amendment was not germane to the bill being debated. Other abortion legislation considered during the session proceeded according to the normal legislative process, including a proposed constitutional amendment to take away the right to abortion, which activists successfully blocked. These bills did not advance because of fierce public opposition.

A study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that a mandatory 24-hour waiting period between consulting with an abortion doctor and going through the procedure causes excessive hardship and leads to emotional and financial burdens for patients. Unnecessary restrictions like the 24-hour waiting period also have a disproportionate impact on those who already face far too many barriers to health care. People of color, people who live in rural areas, young people, or those with low incomes must navigate medically unnecessary obstacles that require more travel, costs, and time. 

Under the new Iowa law, these burdens would be even greater for those experiencing gender-based violence, patients with medical risks that don’t meet the law’s narrow exceptions for life-threatening medical emergencies, and people with wanted pregnancies that have been diagnosed with severe fetal anomalies.

Americans overwhelmingly support the right to access safe, legal abortion and do not want to see this right taken away. Support for access to safe, legal abortion is at a record high -- with more than three-fourths of Americans not wanting to see Roe v. Wade overturned, the highest rate since the case was decided more than 40 years ago. Nearly one in four women in America will have an abortion at some time in their life. 

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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.

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