Iowa Court: State Abortion Provider May Withhold Sex Education

Iowa’s High Court says state can refuse to allow Planned Parenthood to conduct state-sponsored sex education programs funded by federal grants

The Iowa Supreme Court found that the 2019 law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature is constitutional, dismissing Planned Parenthood of Hartland’s complaint that the law violated the right to equal protection and that the law served no reasonably legitimate government interest.

State court Judge Paul Scott ruled in May 2020 that Planned Parenthood would prevail in its lawsuit over its equal protection claim and blocked the law’s implementation. The state appealed.

Six judges appointed by Republican governors agreed that the Iowa Legislature may have reasonable concerns that allowing an abortion provider to teach sex education could undermine its goals of promoting abstinence and reducing teen pregnancy.

“The state may also be concerned that using abortion providers to offer sex education programs to adolescent students would create a relationship between the abortion provider and those students in the light of its policy preference for child birth over state abortion.” doesn’t want to promote,” said an opinion piece written by majority Justice Dana Oxley, appointing Kim Reynolds, who signed the bill into law.

The court concluded that Planned Parenthood’s practice of providing abortions would not be affected by the state’s refusal to grant grant money for sex education programs.

The court’s sole Democratic appointee, Justice Brent Appel, disagreed in a dissenting opinion, stating that the legislature “is trying to accomplish indirectly through unconstitutional situations in these statutes that it cannot directly: namely: , an attack on abortion rights.”

The law explicitly prohibited first-time abortion providers from receiving grant money to teach sex education in the Community Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program administered by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Community Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program administered by the Personal Responsibility Education Program.

Planned Parenthood had received funding for years. As a condition of the grant, recipients must use state-selected educational materials that do not allow discussion of abortion. The use of funds for programs to support services related to abortion is prohibited. In the case, the state agreed that Planned Parenthood neither used grant money for abortion-related services nor discussed abortion as part of educational programming.

Regardless, the court concluded that the legislature could pass legislation “out of concern that its message might be diluted if PPH, the primary abortion provider in the state, delivers state-sponsored sex education programs.”

Planned Parenthood said in a statement that it has received funding since 2005 and used Iowa’s state-approved curriculum to provide sex education to thousands of Iowa youth. The organization currently provides sex education in more than 30 schools and 15 community-based youth-serving organizations in Iowa.

“We are disappointed that the law was upheld because we understand the harm to young Iovans that will result from this decision. We believe the important things being done every day to empower Iovans with sex education and teen pregnancy prevention programming The works had the privilege of supporting Planned Parenthood, said Rita Betis Austen, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa, which provided legal assistance in the case.

In a statement, Reynolds called the ruling “a strong statement in support of the idea that taxpayer dollars should not fund abortions.” She said she is proud to be a “pro-life governor who will protect all innocent lives.”


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