Abortions Continue to Increase in Iowa After GOP’s Family Planning Change

By Nikoel Hytrek

July 21, 2021

There were 4,058 abortions performed in Iowa in 2020, a trend that’s increased over the last three years.

In 2018, there were 2,849 abortions, followed by 3,566 abortions in 2019, according to state data.

The data came from the Iowa Department of Public Health and was released to legislative staff. State Sen. Janet Petersen shared it with the Des Moines Register.

Before 2018, abortions in Iowa were decreasing.

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The increase follows the change in the state’s family planning services. In 2017, Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative Republicans had Iowa withdraw from a federally funded family planning service to a state-run version called the Family Planning Program. The move was intended to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving funding for their family planning services.

That led to the closure of facilities around the state because of lost money. Data shows another result of that change is an 85 percent decline in people using state family planning services.

Most abortion supporters argue the Family Planning Program—and its lack of use—is the reason for abortions increasing.

“The uptick in abortions after years of decreased rates is likely because fewer Iowans have access to birth control and sex education today than a few years ago,” said Jamie Burch Elliott in a Planned Parenthood press release.

Elliot serves as the Iowa Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood North Central States.

“Family planning programs have dwindled, and been proven to be reaching fewer people,” she said. “Health centers offering affordable reproductive health care have been forced to close, limiting access to affordable birth control and contraception.”

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Abortion opponents argue it’s too easy to get abortions in Iowa since the Supreme Court in 2018 found a fundamental right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution. That was the argument used by Maggie DeWitte, executive director of the group Iowans for Life. She told the Register that abortion opponents’ hands are tied by that finding.

Six of the nine Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa offer abortion services while the other three—in Cedar Rapids, Urbandale and one of the two Des Moines clinics—offer referrals. All nine clinics offer additional health-care services. The Emma Goldman clinic in Iowa City also offers abortion services.

For years, Iowa has tried various bills to limit abortions, from waiting periods to bans at specific times, but those efforts have been blocked by Iowa courts.

This year, the Iowa Legislature passed the first step to adding an amendment to the constitution declaring that there’s no fundamental right to abortion in the state. If the amendment goes into effect, bans on abortion would likely follow.


by Nikoel Hytrek

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  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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