How to get an abortion if you live in Iowa

How to get an abortion if you live in Iowa

Reproductive rights protestors at the Iowa Capitol during the July 11 special session to enact an abortion ban. Photo by Nikoel Hytrek/Starting Line

By Nikoel Hytrek

July 1, 2024

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a near-total abortion ban should be allowed to go into effect. There will be at least three weeks before the injunction goes away, but people who need abortions should start planning now.

The near-total ban—which leaves enforcement up to the Iowa Board of Medicine—requires doctors to look for electrical activity in the embryo before performing abortions.

The law calls this a “fetal heartbeat,” though scientifically it’s not a physical heart beating—and the pregnancy is still an embryo, not a fetus.

If electrical activity is found, the law says that doctors can’t perform an abortion. This happens about six to eight weeks into the pregnancy before most people know they’re pregnant. And with the lack of maternal health care providers in Iowa, very few would be able to get an appointment in time.

Perform means both surgical abortions and administering abortion medication.

People who seek and obtain abortions won’t be arrested or punished under this law because it only applies to the physicians performing abortions. However, that hasn’t stopped other anti-abortion states from cracking down on people anyway.

So, how do you go about obtaining an abortion under these conditions? Here are some of your options:

You Can Travel

Minnesota and Illinois both have strong abortion protections and have been serving people in other anti-abortion states. Both states also have laws to protect people seeking abortions from out-of-state. The closest Planned Parenthood clinics in Minnesota are in Mankato and Rochester. The Mankato office just relocated to a bigger space. In Illinois, the closest is in Peoria.

If you’re early in your pregnancy, there is a Planned Parenthood in Omaha, Nebraska, where the state bans abortions at 12 weeks.

Iowa does not have any laws restricting the ability to travel or penalizing people from seeking abortions elsewhere. If you have concerns about the government finding your internet searches, use a privacy-friendly browser like Firefox and a privacy-friendly search engine such as Duck Duck Go. Use encrypted messaging services, and don’t tell many people you’re pregnant.

You Can Get Pills

If you’re at the 12-week mark or less in your pregnancy, you can use medication to manage your abortion yourself. The pills are effective and safe, though they’re less effective past the 12-week point.

To get pills, you can connect with a doctor in a state without abortion restrictions for a telehealth appointment. The pills will then be delivered to whatever address you provide.

Several states have clinics that offer telehealth appointments, but Illinois and Minnesota have shield laws, which means providers are protected. To find your abortion medication options, you can visit a few different websites.

Self-managed abortions are safe, 98% effective, and approved by the Federal Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. Receiving abortion pills in the mail is still legal, but there can be risks.

You Have Resources

If you have more questions, Planned Parenthood still offers abortion navigators who can help you find exactly what you need and help you figure out what (and where) that is.

If you don’t know where to look, a few online resources can also help you figure out which abortion clinics you’re closest to or list your options for obtaining abortion pills. There are services that mail abortion pills to patients or connect patients with resources to find pills or clinics.

If you need financial help, the Iowa Abortion Access Fund is also still available. In the wake of the ruling, the fund has partnered with the Chicago Abortion Fund to provide services for Iowans. To get help, reach out to them at (312) 663-0338 or fill out their intake form here. The link also has information about what you need to do when you call.

“We will continue to work with partners to ensure access to safe abortions for those who need them,” said Leah Vanden Bosch, the Iowa Abortion Access Fund’s development and outreach director. “It is now more important than ever to support the Iowa Abortion Access Fund as we continue to provide abortion care to Iowans in need.”


UPDATE 7/3/24: 1:38 p.m. Provided new information about the Iowa Abortion Access Fund and the Chicago Abortion Fund. 

  • 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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