No surprise: Iowa judge rules 24 hour waiting period unconstitutional

By Dave Andrusko

The content of District Court Judge Mitchell Turner’s order, filed Monday, was 100% predictable:  Turner held that Iowa’s 2020 law requiring a 24 hour waiting period was unconstitutional.

Why the certainty about a law that passed the House 53-42  and the Senate by nearly two to one margin [31-16]? The 2018 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court which not only found a 72 hour waiting period unconstitutional but also concluded that women have a fundamental right to receive an abortion under the Iowa Constitution.  

“Given this clear precedent, this Court finds that Petitioners have established that a twenty-four hour waiting requirement is an invasion or threatened invasion ‘upon the fundamental rights of the people,'” Judge Turner wrote.

Of course it is precisely because of that 7-2 decision by the state’s highest court that the Republican legislature this year passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would state that the Iowa Constitution does not secure a right to abortion. “Lawmakers would have to agree on the same language in 2023 or 2024 before the measure could appear on Iowa voters’ ballots in 2024 for an up or down vote,” the Des Moines Register’s William Morris and Stephen Gruber-Miller reported today. “If approved by a majority of Iowans, the language would then be added to the state’s constitution.”

What does the 24 hour waiting period overturned by Judge Turner say? That “a woman could not have an abortion for at least 24 hours after an initial appointment,” The Des Moines Register’s Stephen Gruber-Miller and Ian Richardson reported. “At that appointment, the woman would have to be given the opportunity to view an ultrasound scan of the fetus and information about abortion and other options, including adoption.”

But, as Morris and Gruber-Miller note, there has been a large turnover in the Iowa Supreme Court. “With the law permanently blocked, the state will have the opportunity to appeal,” they wrote. “Five of the seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court, including four of the five in the majority of the 2018 decision, have been replaced in the years since, all by justices appointed by [Gov. Kim] Reynolds.”