- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Two years after the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, state lawmakers are trying again to pass the same legislation, hoping a newly conservative court will boost the chances of the law surviving a legal challenge.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has made three new appointments to the state’s seven-member high court, the most recent occurring last month following the death of Chief Justice Mark Cady in November.

Pro-life advocates are heartened by the new justices as they again prepare to challenge the state Constitution.

“I mean, there’s different people that are sitting on our Supreme Court now,” state Sen. David Zaun, the bill’s chief sponsor, told the Des Moines Register. “I’m not patient.”

A state Senate Judiciary subcommittee voted along party lines Tuesday to move Mr. Zaun’s bill to the full Senate.



The legislation would require a 72-hour waiting period between a physician’s written certification for an abortion and the performance of the procedure.

In a 5-2 decision in 2018, the state Supreme Court struck down the law, ruling that a right to terminate a pregnancy is embedded in the state Constitution.

Last week, Senate Republicans passed a proposed amendment explicitly stating that the constitution does not protect abortion.

The Iowa House of Representatives must approve a similar measure in order to send the proposition to the voters as a referendum.

Currently, 27 states require women to wait at least 24 hours between receiving counseling and having an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research nonprofit that advocates for reproductive rights. Six states — Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah — require a 72-hour waiting period. Iowa would be the seventh.

Senate Democrats in Iowa have opposed the waiting-period bill. Senate Democratic leader Janet Peterson pointed out Tuesday that the legislation is not clear about making an exception for miscarriages.

“This is not my legislation,” Ms. Peterson said. “I would throw this in a garbage can. That’s what I would do with it.”

The state Supreme Court has been a bulwark against pro-life laws: In addition to striking down the waiting-period law, the court knocked down a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Since those rulings, Ms. Reynolds has appointed three justices to the high court, and is soon to nominate another, following a recent retirement announcement.

What’s more, Ms. Reynolds and the Republican-led legislature has changed the rules by which the bipartisan State Judicial Nominating Commission vets and recommends court nominations, creating a voting majority among the governor’s handpicked commissioners.

The governor has told reporters she believes her appointments will bring “more balance” to the court.

But Sally Frank, a law professor at Drake University in Des Moines, said there’s no certainty that the new court will reach a different conclusion about waiting periods.

“I think I would be surprised [to see a different decision],” Ms. Frank told The Washington Times. “Even some of the justices who were in the minority on that [72-hour waiting period] opinion still have respect for precedent.”

The constitutional amendment, the law professor said, would be a more sure-fire way to effect change on abortion law in the state.

“It’s a more appropriate route,” said Ms. Frank.

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