Iowa Top Court Rejects Right To Abortion, Revives Waiting Period Law

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Iowa’s highest court on Friday ruled that the state’s constitution does not include a “fundamental right” to abortion, reversing its own finding from four years ago and reviving a law requiring women to wait 24 hours after an initial appointment before getting an abortion.

The 5-2 ruling by the Supreme Court of Iowa overturned a lower court one blocking the law, which had been challenged by a Planned Parenthood affiliate. It comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected in coming weeks to issue a major ruling that could dramatically curtail abortion rights at the national level.

Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said the group was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.

The group also noted that the ruling still leaves room to challenge the 24-hour waiting period in the lower court on the grounds that it imposes an “undue burden” on women seeking abortion, and said it would pursue that challenge.

Reaction as United States Supreme Court justices hear arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case
Anti-abortion protestors pray outside of the Supreme Court in Washington
Reaction as United States Supreme Court justices hear arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case

The office of Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller, which defended the law, declined to comment.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed the 24-hour waiting-period law in 2020. The state Supreme Court had struck down an earlier law imposing a 72-hour waiting period in 2018, finding that the state’s constitution included a fundamental right to abortion.

Justice Edward Mansfield, writing for the majority on Friday, said that the 2018 decision had been “flawed” and “one-sided.”

Chief Justice Susan Christensen in a dissent said that the court was too quick to overturn its earlier ruling. She noted that four of the seven current justices – including herself – had been appointed since 2018 by Reynolds.

If the U.S. Supreme Court rolls back abortion rights, state-level legal battles over the issue are likely to become more frequent, as Republican-led states move quickly to pass new abortion restrictions.

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