Judge allows governor’s order delaying ‘nonessential’ abortions

By: - April 1, 2020 6:34 pm

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds addresses reporters at an Associated Press forum days before the opening of the 2020 legislative session. (Photo by Perry Beeman)

A district court judge on Wednesday let stand the governor’s emergency proclamation halting surgical abortions after the state clarified its intention is to delay only “nonessential” abortions.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued an order March 26 that temporarily suspended “nonessential” surgeries and procedures “that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.” 

Reynolds said surgical abortions fall under the proclamation, stating her decision was based on the need to preserve personal protective equipment, or PPEs, such as face masks and shields, that have been in short supply.

The following day, the ACLU of Iowa, along with Planned Parenthood and the Emma Goldman Clinic, sued Reynolds and other state officials for blocking access to surgical abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The groups also filed a temporary injunction preventing the state from enforcing the proclamation.

The state filed a motion to resist the temporary injunction, clarifying the proclamation suspends “nonessential” surgical abortions — not all of them. The state said it is also considering the timing of a pregnancy and if a women would be prevented from getting an abortion once the proclamation is over.

Considering those factors, District Court Judge Andrew Chappell said a temporary injunction is not necessary and said the groups that filed the motion also withdrew it. 

Chappell wrote that it appeared state officials’ interpretation of the proclamation “is more nuanced than was understood” by the plaintiffs.

Reynolds, a vocal abortion opponent, issued a statement saying she is “pleased that her proclamation remains in full effect and that surgical abortions will not be exempted from this suspension of nonessential and elective surgeries.”

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood, ACLU of Iowa and the Emma Goldman Clinic also sent out a statement saying the judge’s order allows the providers to make a “case-by-case” determination on performing surgical abortions in compliance with the proclamation. Planned Parenthood is planning on resuming seeing patients, according to a statement.

“We, like all health care providers, must be focused on our patients right now and today’s agreement allows us to do so,” according to the statement.

Chappell’s order allows the three organizations to continue litigating the original lawsuit. 

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