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Iowa to allow some abortions

DES MOINES — Iowa abortion providers and the state reached an agreement Wednesday whereby a recent order by Gov. Kim Reynolds to temporarily halt elective medical procedures as part of her coronavirus response will not apply to all abortions.

When Reynolds was asked last week if her order stopping elective procedures through April 16 included abortions, she replied that it did. However, state attorneys representing Reynolds said Wednesday that there are exceptions, including women who are approaching the state’s deadline after which most pregnancies must be carried to term.

Abortion providers Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic filed a lawsuit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa on Monday against Reynolds and other state officials. They sought a court order to halt enforcement of Reynolds’ order as it applied to abortions.

A minute before a court hearing by telephone on Wednesday, the abortion providers and attorneys from the Iowa attorney general’s office reached an agreement in which Reynolds and state officials indicate that her order “only suspends ‘nonessential’ surgical abortions, those that cannot be delayed without undue risk to the health of the patient.”

The state acknowledged that when determining whether a surgical abortion can be delayed without undue risk, it would be appropriate to consider, among other medical factors, whether the timing of the patient’s pregnancy would prevent the patient from obtaining a legal abortion after the proclamation expires.

One of the complaints the abortion providers cited was that some women who are approaching the state’s ban on abortions beyond 22 weeks in most cases may be forced to carry the pregnancy to term.

The abortion providers believed Reynolds’ order restricted almost all surgical abortions, but since state officials now say it doesn’t, an immediate court order to halt Reynolds’ action isn’t needed and the abortion providers withdrew it.

State court Judge Andrew Chappell said in an order filed after the phone hearing that the abortion providers “may continue to litigate the constitutional issues raised in their petition with no temporary injunction in place and without waiving any arguments previously made.”

Federal judges on Monday temporarily blocked efforts in Texas and Alabama to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday put on hold a victory for Texas abortion providers, saying it needed more time to consider the issue and would allow the governor’s policy to stay in force.

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