Iowa Supreme Court rules against three-day waiting period


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DES MOINES — Pro-life advocates expressed disappointment in the Iowa Supreme Court’s June 29 decision that struck down a provision providing for a three-day reflection period before an abortion can take place. The vote was 5-2, with Justices Edward Mansfield and Thomas Waterman dissenting.

Anne Marie Amacher
Pro-life supporters pray outside the Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf at the 40 Days for Life kickoff event in 2016.

The majority opinion is the result of a 2017 lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, a local affiliate of the nation’s largest abortion provider, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

“In making this decision, we recognize the continuing debate in society over abortion and acknowledge the right of government to reasonably regulate the constitutional right of women to terminate a pregnancy,” Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote.


“In carefully considering the case, we conclude the statute enacted by our legislature, while intended as a reasonable regulation, violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution because its restrictions on women are not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest of the State. The State has a legitimate interest in informing women about abortion, but the means used under the statute enacted does not meaningfully serve that objective. Because our constitution requires more, we reverse the decision of the district court,” Cady stated.

In his dissent, Mansfield wrote: “After considering the text, original meaning, and subsequent interpretation of the constitutional provisions at issue, the record in this case, the district court’s carefully written decision, and abortion cases from around the country, I conclude that the waiting period in Senate File 471 does not violate either article I, section 9 or article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution.”

Mansfield stated that “the 72-hour waiting period — like other waiting periods for important decisions — serves a legitimate purpose.” He pointed out that “approximately 4,000 abortions are performed each year in Iowa, approximately 3,000 by Planned Parenthood.”
Iowa Catholic Con­ference Executive Director Tom Chapman said, “We strongly disagree with the Court’s judgment that this regulation of abortion impinges upon fundamental state Constitutional rights and believe the decision finds no precedent in Iowa’s history or legal traditions.”

The decision “certainly sets a higher bar to achieve further regulation of abortion in Iowa. The waiting period, as has been found in other states, would have served a legitimate purpose of ensuring that the mother’s ultimate decision is voluntary, informed and reflective.” The state’s prohibition on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is still in force, Chapman noted.

Pope Francis has said, “Let us respect and love human life, especially vulnerable life in a mother’s womb.” People of good will need to work both for the end of abortion and for aid to pregnant women in need, to the men who fathered these children, and to families in distress, Chapman added.

“Protecting the lives of children yet to be born should not be considered primarily a partisan issue or even a religious issue. We call upon the judiciary to once again recognize that all life should be protected from the moment of conception to natural death.”

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