Iowa Republicans passed a bill late Tuesday to ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The bill, passed during a special legislative session, is expected to be signed by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds. If it takes effect, the law would immediately prohibit abortions after six weeks, potentially causing disruptions for abortion clinics and women with scheduled appointments. Currently, abortion is legal in Iowa until the 20th week of pregnancy.
The bill includes exceptions for cases where the woman’s life is at risk, miscarriages, and fetal abnormalities incompatible with life. It also includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, but these exceptions require timely reporting to law enforcement or health agencies.
The bill’s passage was met with protests from Democratic legislators, reproductive rights groups, and abortion-rights supporters. They argue that abortion is an essential healthcare service and that the ban infringes upon women’s rights and bodily autonomy. On the other hand, supporters of the ban emphasize the sanctity of life and assert their belief that life begins at conception.
The new law is expected to impact the 2024 presidential race, particularly among Republican candidates who will be asked about their stance on the ban due to Iowa’s role as the first state to hold Republican caucuses. While stronger abortion restrictions are popular among conservative evangelical Christians, polls indicate that most voters support the right to abortions. Therefore, candidates’ support for a strict abortion ban could be a political vulnerability in general elections.
Reproductive rights groups, including Planned Parenthood, have indicated they will challenge the measure in court. They are determined to continue fighting for safe and legal abortion access and bodily autonomy for Iowans.
The newly passed bill resembles a previous six-week ban permanently blocked by an Iowa Supreme Court ruling last month. However, the court’s decision was based on procedural grounds and did not reach a definitive conclusion on the ban’s constitutionality. With the full state Supreme Court issuing a decision, a different outcome is possible. If a clear majority supports the ban, it could significantly impact its legality.