Where Iowa Stands Now After US Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision

Photo by Starting Line staff

Iowans may eventually lose their rights on reproductive health care, but for the time being, abortion still remains legal in the state following today’s US Supreme Court decision.

Friday, the court released its 6-3 decision in Dobbs v Jackson, which upheld the restrictive Mississippi abortion law banning abortion after 15 weeks. That was the core question before the justices.

However, a majority of justices also used the opportunity to overturn Roe v Wade, a 1973 ruling declaring abortions can be performed until the fetus reaches a point when it can survive outside the womb on its own—viability—which is about 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Those five justices also overruled Planned Parenthood v Casey, a 1993 case saying there could be no undue burdens for people accessing abortion.

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to people’s elected representatives,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the 79-page decision.

Screenshot from the Dobbs decision

Chief Justice John Roberts issued a separate opinion, agreeing with the Dobbs ruling but disagreeing with the idea of overturning Roe and Casey, technically making that question a 5-4 decision.

In some states, including Wisconsin and Missouri, abortion will become illegal immediately due to “trigger laws” passed by Republicans.  Abortion remains legal in Iowa, but that’s likely to change with the current Republican-dominated legislature.

Last Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed a 2018 decision that found a right to abortion in the Iowa constitution. In that case, the justices ruled a 72-hour mandatory waiting period was unconstitutional because it violated a woman’s right to equal justice under the law and due process.

In the same decision, the court also reversed a lower court’s decision to overturn the 24-hour waiting period, passed in 2020. That case was sent back to be reevaluated in lower courts.

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What’s Next

Prior to the Friday ruling, Republicans in the Iowa legislature would have had to pass an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to explicitly state there isn’t a right to abortion in the document—that wouldn’t have gotten on the ballot until next year at the earliest, and it’s not clear if it would have passed a popular vote.

Having the Iowa Supreme Court reverse that ruling opens the door for Republicans legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds to pass new laws restricting on women’s rights, even banning abortion outright. Iowa Republicans have yet to announce plans, but new restrictions are likely to come.

While the right to abortion still exists in Iowa and there are clinics that provide the service, Iowans may soon seek other places where they can access reproductive health care or may want to know about for future reference.

Other Options

Illinois recently passed a law, the Reproductive Health Act, explicitly guaranteeing the right to bodily autonomy for people seeking abortions. The state has a strong record for electing Democrats, so the law is likely to remain intact.

Minnesota has a few restrictions, but the state’s supreme court also recognized the constitutional right to abortion. The procedure is legal until 20 weeks, unless necessary to save the pregnant person’s life.

Both states will likely see an influx of patients.

For those unable to travel outside of the state, abortion funds may be able to help financially. They also help connect people to providers.

There are also services that mail abortion pills to patients or connect patients with resources to find pills or clinics. Self-managed abortions are safe, effective, and approved by the Federal Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. There are potential legal risks to having the pills shipped from outside the United States. For legal questions, you may contact the Repro Legal Helpline by phone or a confidential online form.

Less than 0.4% of people have had serious complications requiring hospitalization by using pills, and the only catch is they’re most effective in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Iowa only requires the pills to be provided by a licensed physician. There are no laws against abortion pills being used or mailed in Iowa. In fact, medication abortions now account for more than half of all US abortions.

Iowa Republicans have pushed for legislation to ban mailed abortion pills, but none have been successful.

Though the repeal of Roe is a blow to bodily autonomy for millions, abortion possibilities have expanded and developed since 1973, and there may be more options than you realized.


Nikoel Hytrek

Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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