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DES MOINES REGISTER EDITORIAL: Iowa GOP does not consider women equal, but Iowa Constitution does, abortion ruling shows
Supreme Court ruling on abortion waiting period is a victory for Iowans and freedom.
“Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free. At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world. Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty.” — Iowa Supreme Court in June 29 decision rejecting a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.
Common sense on the issue of abortion prevailed in Iowa last week. It came in the form of a 5-2 decision from the Iowa Supreme Court striking down part of a 2017 law imposing a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Justices deemed this requirement unconstitutional.
It is also wrong and discriminatory.
No one is required by law to wait before undergoing a colonoscopy, heart surgery or any other medical procedure. But the anti-choice GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad insisted on requiring a delay for women seeking only this medical procedure.
The goal of these politicians had nothing to do with safety. (The risk of death from continuing a pregnancy to childbirth is 14 times greater than that of an abortion procedure, according to the ruling.) It had everything to do with forcing women to give birth and stripping them of their constitutional rights.
The Iowa Supreme Court put a stop to that offensive overreach.
The ruling found that a waiting period could result in delays and increased costs and in some cases could prevent a woman from legally obtaining an abortion. It reminded Iowans that even if the GOP does not think women should be treated equally, the Iowa Constitution does.
“The state’s capacity to legislate pursuant to its own moral scruples is necessarily curbed by the constitution. The state may pick a side, but in doing so, it may not trespass upon the fundamental rights of the people,” wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady in the majority opinion.
When politicians attempt to strip people of precious rights, the judicial branch of government provides a desperately needed check on those elected officials.
The ruling also offers a lesson on the lack of access to health care in this state, regardless of whether a woman wants to terminate or continue a pregnancy.
Nearly half of Iowa physicians are employed by hospital systems, and about 40 percent of those hospitals are affiliated with Catholic organizations. They prohibit not only abortion care, but also prescribing birth control to prevent pregnancy. Last year, Iowa ranked 46th in the nation for obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN) access for reproductive-age women. Sixty-six of Iowa’s 99 counties do not have an OB/GYN, the ruling noted.
Ironically, it is none other than the GOP that has made it more difficult for Iowa women to obtain routine health care. Last year lawmakers forfeited federal money for family planning services to prevent a penny of it from going to Planned Parenthood for any services. The health care provider, which offers cancer screenings, birth control and referrals to OB/GYNs for pre-natal care, has since closed four clinics.
That means Iowa women have less access to contraceptives that prevent pregnancies and thus could eliminate the need to seek abortions.
Reading the ruling may help lawmakers connect the dots. It may also prepare them for the likely fate of the misogynistic and extreme “fetal heartbeat” bill signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds this year that would essentially ban all abortions in this state.
The goal of some Republican lawmakers was to take a legal challenge to the heartbeat law to the U.S. Supreme Court as a test case that could possibly lead to overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Yet federal courts generally don’t decide debates over state constitutions. And the Iowa Supreme Court just made crystal clear our state constitution provides women a fundamental right to control their bodies, lives and futures.
“Liberty and equality are intertwined,” the majority of justices said.
Amen to that. “