20 House Republicans Sign Bill To Ban Nearly All Abortion In Iowa

By Nikoel Hytrek
February 28, 2023

Iowa House Republicans introduced a sweeping abortion ban on Tuesday that only allows the medical procedure to be performed under rare circumstances.

The 53-page bill does a number of things, including:

  • Defines life at fertilization, and uses the term “unborn child” for all stages
  • Declares zygotes, embryos, and fetuses entitled to equal protection under the law
  • Prohibits all abortion-inducing medication—including both mifepristone and misoprostol, the two most common
  • Outlaws the manufacture, possession, or distribution of abortion medicine, including by mail, and any action that aids someone getting the medicine
  • Defines medical emergencies only as physical health
  • Requires internet service providers (ISPs) to ban websites and apps that are operated by or for abortion providers or abortion funds.
  • Specifies that enforcement of these laws comes from private individuals

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Total Ban

The bill bans all surgical and medical abortions, and prohibits anyone from helping someone get an abortion—this includes referrals and services such as abortion funds.

Sending or receiving abortion medication through the mail is also prohibited.

“It shall be unlawful for a person to do any of the following…b. Mail, transport, deliver, or provide abortion-inducing drugs in any manner to or from a person or location in the state. c. Engage in any conduct that constitutes aiding and abetting the manufacture, possession, distribution, mailing, transporting, delivery, or provision of abortion-inducing drugs,” the bill reads.

The law only counts toward abortions performed in the state of Iowa, and it doesn’t penalize women who tried to have abortions or those who succeeded in having abortions.

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According to the bill, in vitro fertilization or other fertility treatments don’t count. Neither do morning-after pills or other contraceptives.

The other exceptions refer to miscarriage care (as long as the embryo/fetus is dead), removing ectopic pregnancies or treating “a physiological condition which the physician deems, in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment, to be a medical emergency.”

Exceptions don’t include: “psychological conditions, emotional conditions, familial conditions, or the woman’s age.”

However, it’s worth noting that exceptions to bans are rarely available either because providers don’t want to risk prosecution or the exception is too narrow or vague, making the burden of proof too high.


The bill also requires internet service providers (ISPs) to attempt to block access to sites that are operated by or for abortion providers or abortion funds. They must also block websites where abortion funds and providers can collect donations.

Public computers, like those in schools and libraries, are also required to block access to these websites.


The enforcement for this ban is modeled after a Texas model where private individuals bring lawsuits against providers rather than law enforcement or the state government officials pursuing violations. This method was originally put in place because it’s easier to avoid legal challenges to the law.

Iowa US attorneys are also called on to prosecute the people and companies who send or receive abortion pills in the mail.

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Current Landscape

Abortion is currently legal in Iowa until 20 weeks, with a 24-hour waiting period between the consultation and the abortion. A six-week ban championed by Gov. Kim Reynolds is being heard in the Iowa Supreme Court, after being denied in the Polk County District Court.

So far, Reynolds has said she wants to wait for the justices’ final ruling before pursuing any other abortion legislation, and other Republicans have echoed that. House Speaker Pat Grassley (R-New Haven) has also said it’s unlikely the bill will meet the “funnel” deadline Friday, which requires bills to pass through a full committee to remain active.

But this bill, as well as a separate bill that would ban abortion medication in Iowa, signals Iowa Republicans are eager to chip away at reproductive rights.

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The bill was signed by Representatives:

Jon Dunwell (Newton)

Zach Dieken (Granville)

Helena Hayes (New Sharon)

Steve Bradley (Cascade)

Mark Thompson (Clarion)

Anne Osmundson (Volga)

Jeff Shipley (Fairfield)

Brad Sherman (Williamsburg)

Luana Stoltenberg (Davenport)

Bob Henderson (Sioux City)

Skyler Wheeler (Hull)

Tom Gerhold (Atkins)

Dean Fisher (Garwin)

Craig Johsnon (Independence)

Martin Graber (Fort Madison)

Stan Gustafson (Norwalk)

Tom Jeneary (Le Mars)

Phil Thompson (Boone)

Charley Thomson (Charles City)

Ken Carlson (Onawa)


Correction 3/10: an earlier version of this article listed only 17 of the 20 representatives who signed onto the bill

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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