Abortion remains legal in Iowa—for now.
In Iowa, a woman has the right to an abortion up until about 20 weeks of her pregnancy. A later-term abortion—unless it is “performed to preserve the life or health of the pregnant person”—is considered a Class C felony in Iowa. The rules for a minor female seeking an abortion are more restrictive.
The question of abortion legalities arose after Politico released a story Monday based on a draft of a US Supreme Court ruling that would essentially overturn Roe v. Wade. The landmark 1973 ruling protects a woman’s right to have an abortion. The Supreme Court later verified the draft.
Some states have trigger laws to immediately ban abortion if Roe V. Wade is overturned; however, Iowa is not one of them and the ruling is not official yet.
If the US Supreme Court moves forward with the draft ruling, abortion would revert back to the states and Iowa’s Republican trifecta—the Iowa House, the Iowa Senate, and the governor’s office—would likely push to make the practice entirely illegal or severely limit the circumstances that allow a woman to have the procedure.
Although Iowa Republicans—many of whom are vocal pro-life advocates—have majority control of the state government, the process of making significant changes to Iowa’s abortion laws is layered. Some previous attempts have been rejected or stalled by the courts.
Iowa’s Supreme Court is in the midst of hearing a case about whether or not a 2020 law that requires women to wait 24 hours before they can receive an abortion is legal. The 2020 law has not gone into effect because a 2018 ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court declared abortion a protected right under the Iowa Constitution. That ruling was made to strike down a law that required a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion.
In light of the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling, there has been a Republican-led effort in the Iowa Legislature to amend the Iowa Constitution, a complex process that takes years to unfold.
First, a resolution must be approved with a majority vote by the Iowa General Assembly—the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate—and approved again by the next Iowa General Assembly.
The legislature approved a resolution during the 2021 session that declares abortion is not a constitutionally protected right. This year’s session is being by led by the same General Assembly, so the resolution would have to be approved again either in the 2023 or 2024 legislative sessions, which are considered the next General Assembly.
If the resolution is approved in two subsequent General Assemblies, it would be added to the 2024 general election ballot where it would have to be ratified by a majority of voters.
The last constitutional amendment Iowans voted for was in 2010.
by Ty Rushing
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