Iowa Legislature Considers Six-Week Abortion Ban Amid Legal Challenges
Iowa's Republican-controlled legislature is set to deliberate on a proposal to ban abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy, a time when most women are unaware they are pregnant.
The state's Republican Governor, Kim Reynolds, called for a special legislative session after the Iowa Supreme Court blocked a similar measure passed in 2018 from taking effect on June 16.
The Iowa Supreme Court reached a deadlock in a 3-3 decision, leaving abortion legal in the state for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the three judges who opposed the reinstatement of the 2018 law did so to avoid engaging in legislating from the bench. This has given Republican lawmakers confidence that passing a new law now will provide a stronger defense against future legal challenges.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case in June 2022, eliminating the nationwide right to abortion, fourteen states have enacted bans on most abortions.
The 2018 Iowa ban on abortions after approximately six weeks had been put on hold by the courts while Roe v. Wade and similar state constitutional protections were in place. However, both of these safeguards have now been overturned.
The proposed Iowa bill, in its current draft, seeks to outlaw abortions with limited exceptions once cardiac activity can be detected, even before the fetus has developed an actual heart.
The bill includes some exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Abortions after six weeks would also be allowed in the event of a medical emergency, a fetal abnormality that a doctor reasonably believes is incompatible with life, or if continuing the pregnancy would pose a serious risk of irreversible harm to the woman's body.
However, it does not make exceptions based on the age of the pregnant individual or any mental health condition.
Debate on the bill was scheduled to begin on Tuesday in both the state Senate and the state House of Representatives. The duration of the discussions remained uncertain.
Ahead of the session, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa urged supporters of abortion rights to contact their legislators, register to speak against the bill, and participate in rallies opposing the measure.
Conversely, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition advocacy group called on its members to contact lawmakers and voice support for the bill.