GOP lawmakers enact 24-hour wait period for abortion

The Republican-led Iowa legislature voted to establish a 24-hour wait period for abortions performed in the state.

Two years ago, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a 72-hour waiting period was unconstitutional. During the debate late Saturday night, Peosta’s Representative Shannon Lundgren made it clear that Republicans are targeting this new proposal to turn the tide.

“Maybe it will give the courts an opportunity to rectify the terrible situation they have created here in our state,” Lundgren said.

The chief justice who wrote in the 2018 notice that Iowa women were entitled to an abortion under the Iowa Constitution died in November. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has now appointed the majority of the Iowa Supreme Court justices. This raises the possibility that the court will overturn the previous ruling which essentially blocked all legislative attempts to restrict access to abortion.

Senator Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, said the bill sends a clear message to the Iowa Supreme Court about this 2018 ruling.

“The very notion that there is somehow a fundamental right in the Iowa constitution is one of the most egregious abuses of hammer power,” Chapman said.

Sen. Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the money the state spent to advocate the abortion issue would be better spent elsewhere.

“We are talking about a problem that we are not going to solve tonight,” said Mathis. “We may never solve this problem in our lifetime, but we can help children with mental health issues in our lifetimes. “

The 24-hour wait period emerged as a political option for GOP lawmakers on Saturday after it became clear that a proposed constitutional amendment regarding abortion could not pass Iowa House. Democratic Senate Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines and all but one Democrats voted against the bill.

“The interesting thing about it: It’s a 24 hour wait period and you didn’t even give women 24 hours notice that you would be denying them their rights,” Petersen said.

The proposal requires a doctor to obtain written attestation from a woman that she is eligible for an abortion, 24 hours before an abortion is performed. According to Rep. Sandy Salmon, a Republican from Janesville, 17 other states have 24-hour wait periods for abortions.

“Waiting periods help ensure that decisions are not made under duress and undue influence,” said Salmon.

Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, argued that lawmakers should not “guess” at the medical decisions women make.

“It’s presumptuous, disrespectful and in my opinion insulting,” Lensing said.

Representative Heather Matson, a Democrat from Ankeny, said requiring two medical appointments within 24 hours creates hardship for poor women and for women in rural areas who have to travel greater distance.

“The intent of a 24-hour ban is the same as a 72-hour ban… It is more difficult for a woman to get the care she needs and she simply will not receive it,” Matson said.

The bill passed the House late Saturday night as Democrat Andy McKean joined 52 Republicans in voting yes. Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, opened Senate debate on the measure shortly before 4:30 a.m. this morning.

“Iowa has a three-day waiting period for marriage, a 72-hour post-birth waiting period for adoption, a 90-day waiting period for divorce,” Schultz said. “All of these waiting periods are meant to ensure that Iowans who make lifelong decisions have time to think.”

The bill was passed in the Senate shortly after 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Governor Kim Reynolds has not publicly commented on the measure, but she supported previous abortion restrictions and enacted the state’s “fetal heartbeat” bill in 2018.

Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa Executive Director for Planned Parenthood North Central States, issued a written statement, saying “Amid a pandemic and continued momentum for Black Lives Matter,” Republican lawmakers “remain determined to make it harder for Iowa women to obtain reproductive health care.

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