With the ink barely dry on the Iowa Supreme Court’s split decision on the six-week abortion ban, the Iowa legislature already seems headed for a special session.
For perspective, the ban that has been permanently enjoined passed in 2018, in a very different legal environment. All Republicans who voted for it knew it was unconstitutional and would never go into effect. It was a political nod to the extremists in their base.
Then, in 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe and the Iowa Supreme Court reversed itself on the fundamental right to an abortion under the Iowa Constitution. When the governor decided to go to court to try to revive the six-week ban, it struck me as an end-run on the people of Iowa. For a governor who has not held a press conference in a year, trying to legislate by stealth should not, I guess, have come as a surprise. Nor should it be startling that she would ignore the will of a majority of Iowans, who don’t want their abortion rights severely curtailed.
According to the Des Moines Register’s most recent Iowa poll, nearly two-thirds of Iowans (61%) – and 70% of Iowa women – believe abortion should be legal.
Numerous regulations on abortion already exist—it is, in fact, the most regulated health-care procedure in the United States. In the state of Iowa, obtaining an abortion requires that an ultrasound be performed, and the pregnant person must be offered the chance to see it and counseled on all options. Parents of minors must be informed. There is a 24-hour waiting period. 20 weeks is the limit unless a life is at risk. Late-term abortions are not a thing, unless something has gone horribly wrong with a much-wanted pregnancy or the woman has, for example, a cancer diagnosis and requires immediate treatment.
Rather than convene a special session to enact an unpopular and dangerous new law, I suggest that we spend our time focusing on policies that would give Iowans a hand up: Ensuring they have access to food; a roof over their heads; affordable, quality childcare; healthcare – including 12 months of postpartum Medicaid coverage; and a living wage. In other words, working for the common good of all Iowans.
And if we want to help on the reproductive side, over-the-counter contraception, which was proposed but not passed this session, would help people plan. So would re-opening closed clinics that provide STI testing and birth control.
We have adequate guardrails in place when it comes to reproductive healthcare in Iowa. We can help people without further government interference. Let’s place our trust in Iowans and their medical providers.
by Sen. Janice Weiner (D-Iowa City)