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Lawsuit challenging Iowa’s certificate of need law continues in federal court

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(The Center Square) – A federal judge ruled a case challenging Iowa’s certificate of need law can proceed.

Caitlin Hainley and her business partner, Emily Zambrano-Andrews, want to open a birthing center in Des Moines. They can help with at-home births but cannot do so in a birthing center.

They haven’t applied because they have seen others struggle to fight the regulation, Hainely said in an interview with The Center Square last year.

The women sued the Iowa Facilities Council, which approves certificates of need, also known as CONs, for health care facilities. They said the CON law is unconstitutional and violates their 14th Amendment rights. Chief Judge Stephanie M. Rose said the Hainley and Zambrano-Andrews cannot establish a claim that the law violates their fundamental rights.

The challenge against the law’s constitutionality and equal protection and due process claims can proceed.

Hainley and Zambrano-Andrews are represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation. Wilson Freeman, the PLF attorney representing them, said CONs are hard to get and expensive.

“Anytime you want to file a new institutional health service, you have to file a long and complicated application, and there’s an application fee, which is three-tenths of 1% of the anticipated cost of the project, so it’s not a small fee,” Freeman told The Center Square. “As a matter of course, the local hospitals will come in and oppose the application, they will say that there is no need for this business, in spite of the fact that my clients are already engaged in the home birth business.”

The Iowa Legislature considered a bill during the 2024 session that would switch the responsibility of approving CONs to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services and eliminate the Health Facilities Council. Senate File 506 passed the Senate but never reached the House floor.

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