Iowa’s new abortion ban is challenged in court, a day after it was passed by GOP lawmakers
Jul 12, 2023, 9:18 AM
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A legal challenge was filed Wednesday to block Iowa’s new legislation banning most abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy, launching what will likely be a lengthy and emotional court battle just hours after the Legislature’s late-night vote.
The bill was passed with exclusively Republican support in a rare, one-day legislative burst lasting more than 14 hours. That’s despite the vocal — and sometimes tense — objections from Democratic lawmakers and abortion advocates protesting at the Capitol.
Gov. Kim Reynolds says she will sign the bill, which would take immediate effect, on Friday.
The challenge, filed by the ACLU of Iowa, Planned Parenthood North Central States and the Emma Goldman Clinic, requests that a district court temporarily put the soon-to-be law on hold as the courts assess its constitutionality.
Abortion is currently legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, but that would change with the stroke of Reynolds’ pen Friday. The new legislation prohibits almost all abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.
Reynolds declined in June to reinstate a practically identical law that she signed in 2018.
“The Iowa Supreme Court questioned whether this legislature would pass the same law they did in 2018, and today they have a clear answer,” Reynolds said in a statement. “The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives cannot be ignored any longer, and justice for the unborn should not be delayed.”
Planned Parenthood North Central States has said they will refer patients out of state if they’re scheduled for abortions in the next few weeks. The organization, the largest abortion provider in Iowa, will continue to provide care to patients before cardiac activity is detected.
But the organization’s preparations for legal challenges were underway well before the final votes Tuesday.
“The ACLU of Iowa, Planned Parenthood, and the Emma Goldman Clinic remain committed to protecting the reproductive rights of Iowans to control their bodies and their lives, their health, and their safety —including filing a lawsuit to block this reckless, cruel law,” ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer said in a statement.
There are limited circumstances under the measure that would allow for abortion after that point in a pregnancy where cardiac activity is detected — such as rape, if reported to law enforcement or a health provider within 45 days; incest, if reported within 145 days; if the fetus has a fetal abnormality “incompatible with life;” and if the pregnancy is endangering the life of the pregnant woman.
A district court found the 2018 law unconstitutional in 2019 based on rulings by the Iowa’s Supreme Court that had affirmed a woman’s fundamental constitutional right to abortion.
After both bodies overturned those rulings last year, the governor sought to reinstate the 2018 law. But the state’s high court deadlocked last month without ruling on the merits of an abortion ban, leaving that law permanently blocked and leaving open the question of how the courts would rule on a new one.
Most Republican-led states have drastically limited abortion access in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and handed authority on abortion law to the states. More than a dozen states have bans with limited exceptions and one state, Georgia, bans abortion after cardiac activity is detected. Several other states have similar restrictions that are on hold pending court rulings.