Des Moines, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court today reversed an important district court decision protecting young Iowans access to critical sex education and teen pregnancy prevention programming. The Court’s decision will allow the state to impose legislation that bars organizations that provide or promote access to abortion from receiving sex education grant funding.
As soon as Governor Reynolds signed HF 766 into law in 2019, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa filed a lawsuit and quickly received a temporary injunction. In May 2020, the Polk County District Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction to block the law, allowing Planned Parenthood to continue to receive grant funding for sex education programming during the past two years. The state then appealed the court’s decision.
“This is a disappointing day for young Iowans who have relied on Planned Parenthood for more than a decade to provide them with comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education,” said Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “Today’s decision is a major setback for public health. Parents agree that young people need medically accurate information to make healthy decisions that will determine the trajectory of their lives. As Iowa’s largest sex education provider, we are committed to our critical sex education programs, and we are invested in continuing this important work.”
During more than a decade of receiving this funding in Iowa, Planned Parenthood has delivered sex education programs intended to promote healthy decision making and reduce pregnancy among teenagers. Since 2005, Planned Parenthood has used Iowa’s state-approved sex education curriculum to provide sex education to tens of thousands of Iowa youth. Planned Parenthood currently provides age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education at more than 30 schools and 15 community-based youth-serving organizations across Iowa, with a focus on areas with the highest rates of unintended pregnancies and STIs.
“The programming that this law interferes with is crucial to protecting the Iowa teens who rely on Planned Parenthood to provide sex education and teen pregnancy prevention programming in our state. We believe that the district court correctly determined that the law violated the constitutional requirement of equal protection by targeting Planned Parenthood to block it from receiving grants to provide this important programming. We are disappointed that the law was upheld because we understand the harm to young Iowans that will result from this decision. We were privileged to support Planned Parenthood in the vital work they do every day to empower Iowans with sex education and teen pregnancy prevention programming,” said Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa.
Research shows that when young people receive comprehensive sex education, they are more likely to have healthy relationships, lower rates of unintended pregnancies, and decreased need for abortion. Decades of research show comprehensive approaches to sex education—including information on condoms, contraception and abstinence—effectively delay sexual activity and increase condom and contraceptive use when young people do become sexually active.
Additionally, there is broad support for sex education in the United States. More than 90 percent of parents support sex education in both middle and high school. The vast majority of parents, from all political perspectives, want this education to include topics like birth control, healthy relationships, abstinence, dating violence and assault, and sexual orientation.
The law that was upheld targeted Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that Planned Parenthood has been a trusted provider of comprehensive sex education in Iowa for decades—including nearly 15 years in one of the grant programs covered by the law. The law aimed to stop the grant money from going to any organization that provides abortion or to any organization that advocates for access to abortion.
The full decision can be found here.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides, promotes, and protects reproductive and sexual health through health services, education, and advocacy. An affiliate of America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care, PPHeartland is proud to offer a full range of high-quality services at health centers in Iowa and Nebraska.
The ACLU of Iowa is a private, non-partisan organization that fights to advance civil liberties for all. It is the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe. We work to assure the rights of all Iowans—from atheists to devout Christians, from labor unions to businesspeople and more—to make sure the constitutional rights of all are preserved. For more information, please go to www.aclu-ia.org.