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Iowa Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Abortion Waiting Period Law

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The Iowa Supreme Court has issued a highly anticipated ruling regarding a state law requiring women to wait 24 hours before they get an abortion.

In doing so, the state’s highest court overturned a 2018 court ruling which found that abortion is actually not protected in the Iowa Constitution.

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“In a fractured decision that reverses a lower court’s decision to block a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, the court said the previous ruling that established a constitutional right to an abortion insufficiently recognizes that future human lives are at stake,” USA Today reported.

“The ruling sends a case challenging a 2020 law that put in place a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion back to a lower court to reevaluate. It also suggested that a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected soon, would further decide the landscape of abortion in Iowa and across the U.S.,” the outlet continued.

“Although we overrule (the 2018 decision), and thus reject the proposition that there is a fundamental right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution subjecting abortion regulation to strict scrutiny, we do not at this time decide what constitutional standard should replace it,” noted Justice Edward Mansfield, who wrote the majority opinion.

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Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds, meanwhile, celebrated the Iowa Supreme Court decision in a statement.

“Today’s ruling is a significant victory in our fight to protect the unborn. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed its earlier 2018 decision, which made Iowa the most abortion-friendly state in the country,” she said in a statement. “Every life is sacred and should be protected, and as long as I’m governor that is exactly what I will do.”

The state court ruled ahead of an even more highly anticipated decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that — if an opinion leaked early last month holds — will overturn the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion throughout the country.

The draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, calls the decades-old decision “egregiously” wrong and sends the issue back to states so they can decide on their own whether to continue allowing the procedures or ban them entirely.

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To the previous point, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul this week signed a series of bills sent to her by the state assembly’s Democratic majority protecting and even expanding the procedure, in anticipation of SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade.

A press release from her office states:

Governor Kathy Hochul today signed a nation-leading legislative package to immediately protect the rights of patients and empower reproductive healthcare providers in anticipation of a final decision by the Supreme Court on abortion access. The legislation takes specific actions to address a variety of legal concerns unleashed by the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson, which would overturn the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade on the eve of its 50th anniversary.

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Governor Hochul signed the bills at the historic Great Hall of Cooper Union, while flanked by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie, key partners in the state legislature, as well as abortion and reproductive healthcare providers and advocates.

“Reproductive rights are human rights, and today we are signing landmark legislation to further protect them and all who wish to access them in New York State. The women of New York will never be subjected to government mandated pregnancies. Not here. Not now. Not ever,” she said.

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“Today, we are taking action to protect our service providers from the retaliatory actions of anti-abortion states and ensure that New York will always be a safe harbor for those seeking reproductive healthcare. New York has always been a beacon for those yearning to be free. And I want the world to hear — loud and clear — that will not change,” she added.

“New York refuses to sit back and allow the Supreme Court to reverse years of progress by taking away a woman’s right to make choices about her own body,” said Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado, another Democrat.

“We will provide a safe haven for women in New York with this nation-leading package of legislation signed into law today which protects a patient’s rights and empowers reproductive healthcare providers. New York will never stop fighting to make sure that women who are seeking safe, accessible abortion services receive them,” he said.

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