DES MOINES, Iowa -- In a 5 to 2 vote, the Iowa Supreme Court Justices ruled the 72-hour waiting period abortion law violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution.
Chief Justice Mark Cady said in the decision, “The imposition of a waiting period may have seemed like a sound means to accomplish the State’s purpose of promoting potential life, but as demonstrated by the evidence, the purpose is not advanced. Instead, an objective review of the evidence shows that women do not change their decision to have an abortion due to a waiting period.”
Supporters of the 72-hour waiting period said this decision is disappointing.
"I am shocked, shocked that five out of seven of our Iowa Supreme Court judges can read the Iowa Constitution, which lists as the very first right, in Article I, Section I, the right to life, and then read in an imagined right to kill babies in the same document," Vice President of The Family Leader Chuck Hurley said.
Both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU say this decision is a tremendous victory.
"We get to tell our patients and our supporters and the world that their care is no longer under threat from this disastrous law, and furthermore access to abortion is constitutionally protected as a fundamental right in the state of Iowa," CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Suzanna deBaca said.
Cady said if the law was in place, it would violate certain liberties.
“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. We therefore hold, under the Iowa Constitution, that implicit in the concept of ordered liberty is the ability to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy,” Cady said.
ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said this is the most important constitutional rights case in Iowa since Varnum.
“Women and men are protected equally under our state constitution, and these core decisions about one's bodily autonomy is essential to freedom and equality for women in the state of Iowa," Austen said.
Hurley said this ruling gave them even more momentum for the “fetal heartbeat bill.”
“This makes the heartbeat law and the heartbeat litigation even more important, because Americans have seen ultrasound. We know what's going, we can hear the heartbeat, and that was the key legal issue in Roe v. Wade,” Hurley said.
Because this decision was made under the Iowa Constitution, that means the Iowa Supreme Court's decision is the final word and it can't be appealed to the federal courts.