Judge rules Iowa’s ban on funding for Planned Parenthood’s sex education programs is unconstitutional

The Cedar Rapids Planned Parenthood Health Center, shown Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. — Lauren Shotwell/Little Village

A state district court judge has struck down as unconstitutional Iowa’s ban on Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) receiving public grant money to provide sex education programs in the state.

“The Act has no valid, ‘realistically conceivable’ purpose that serves a legitimate government interest as it is both irrationally overinclusive and under-inclusive,” Judge Paul Scott wrote in his decision issued on Thursday. “The Act violates PPH’s right to equal protection under the law and is therefore unconstitutional.”

Republican leaders in the Iowa legislature introduced the funding ban on Planned Parenthood, and other organizations that provide abortion services, from receiving grant money awarded by the state for sex education programs into the budget bill for the Iowa Department of Human Services during the final days of the 2019 legislative session. The lawmakers invoked a seldom-used legislative procedure that prevented any effort to remove the provision. Gov. Kim Reynolds could have used her line-item veto to remove the ban when she signed the bill into law on May 3, but chose not to.

PPH uses that grant money to provide sex education programs in 31 schools and 12 community-based, youth-service organizations across the state. In some Iowa counties, PPH is the sole provider such programs.

The ACLU of Iowa filed a lawsuit on behalf of PPH shortly after Reynolds signed the bill into law. A district court judge issued an injunction stopping the ban before it could eliminate the funding.

“Today’s decision ensures that teens and young adults across Iowa will continue to have access to medically accurate sex education programs, despite the narrow and reckless policies of anti-abortion lawmakers,” Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa Executive Director of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said in a statement on Thursday.

Gov. Reynolds’ office has not yet responded to requests for comment on Judge Scott’s decision, or indicated if they will appeal the ruling.

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