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Abortion remains legal in Iowa, but court rulings open the door to more restrictions

Abortion-rights supporters gather on Des Moines' streets in reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion.
Madeleine King
Abortion is still legal in Iowa after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion Friday.

Abortion is still legal in Iowa after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion Friday. The Court overturned the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision, allowing states to decide how much they want to restrict abortion.

Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed a court rulingthat provided strong state-level protections for abortion rights. The state court didn’t decide what the new level of protection should be. But the two court rulings open the door to more abortion restrictions in Iowa.

Iowa doesn’t have a so-called trigger law, so the legislature would have to reconvene to ban or further restrict abortion. Abortion is legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy in Iowa, and a 24-hour waiting period is expected to be enforced beginning next month.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement calling this one of the Supreme Court's "greatest moments."

"But the fight for life is not over," she said. "As governor, I won’t rest until every unborn Iowan is protected and respected.”

Reynolds has recently declined to say if she would call a special session for the Iowa Legislature to restrict abortion. She has not said what abortion laws she would like to enact, and she hasn't directly answered questions about possible exceptions to abortion restrictions.

In 2018, Reynolds signed a bill into law banning most abortions after about six weeks into pregnancy, but the law never took effect.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said it’s "a dark day for freedom."

"Iowa Democrats will continue to fight for every Iowan's right to decide for themselves if, when, and with whom they want to have a family," Wilburn said. "And this decision has only strengthened our resolve to see these personal freedoms restored."

Planned Parenthood North Central States, which operates five abortion clinics in Iowa, says abortion services in the state will not be disrupted.

Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of PPNCS, said in a statement that the decision is wrong and will harm millions of people.

"We have been preparing for months to be able to best serve patients across our region," Stoesz said. "Our doors are open and Planned Parenthood is committed to providing abortion care where it remains legal."

At a press conference on Friday, Stoesz said Planned Parenthood will continue offering Iowans abortion services as long as it remains legal in the state.

"Abortion has not been banned in Iowa. Our doors remain open, and we continue to see people who seek our care in Iowa, and we will continue to do so," she said, "you know, until such time as we are not able to."

Sarah Traxler, the chief medical officer of PPNCS, said the health provider has increased capacity in their telemedicine abortion sites and is onboarding new physicians in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska in order to meet regional demand.

"We've also hired more patient navigators as we know we'll need increasing support and resources for patients as they move around the country and our region, finding the care that they need," she said.

PPNCS serves Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, abortion remains legal in just Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota, as the other states have trigger bans outlawing the procedure if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Pulse Life Advocates, said this rights an egregious wrong and the work begins tomorrow "in a post-Roe society."

"Abortion law will return to the individual states, and here in Iowa, we will continue to educate on the need for our Protect Life Amendment and pass legislation to eliminate abortion," DeWitte said.

Anti-abortion activists have said they will continue to push for a constitutional amendment that would say the Iowa Constitution does not protect abortion rights.

This post will be updated with more information.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter
Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter