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In Des Moines News

Access to abortion in Iowa to be decided by the state’s Supreme Court

Abortion in Iowa remains legal for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill on July 14 to ban most abortions in the state after the detection of fetal cardiac activity. The new law, which has written exceptions for survivors of sexual assault and incest, was blocked by a state judge on July 17. 

The bill is similar to one that was passed in 2018 but later blocked by the Iowa Supreme Court. According to Drake professor and Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, the bill was influenced by other laws that have passed in various states after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in June 2022. 

“We call it colloquially a six-week ban, but really it’s a fetal cardiac activity [ban],” Konfrst said. “So the ban moves depending on when that activity can be determined. It’s typically around six weeks.” 

A special legislative session in July was called specifically for the purpose of addressing abortion access in Iowa. 

“It was passed on almost a party-line vote. There was only partisan support and non-partisan opposition in the Senate,” Konfrst said. “But in the House, it was partisan. There was an injunction immediately filed, while the court considered the law, and now we are waiting for the court to do so.” 

Until the law has been reviewed by the Iowa Supreme Court, the previous law remains in place. This law allows abortions up to 20 weeks with a 24-hour waiting period. It is unknown when the Iowa Supreme C0urt will rule on the new bill. 

“We’re just up in the air. [The Court’s decision] could happen any time,” Konfrst said. “It could be next week, it could be next month. I just don’t know because there’s politics in this…I would like it to not be ruled on for months and months because the status quo is what’s happening in the meantime. But we just don’t know.”

To apply for an exception to the bill, survivors of sexual assault must file a report within 45 days, and survivors of incest must file a report within 140 days to be eligible for an abortion. The bill also allows exceptions for situations that threaten the life of the person who is pregnant. 

“There are a lot of questions with regards to this life of the mother language,” Konfrst said. “It’s pretty vague, and so doctors have a lot of questions about what that means and how it’s determined. ‘Do I need to call a lawyer at the hospital?’” 

Iowa House Democrats also proposed three amendments to the new bill. The first would allow people 12 and under to be able to access an abortion up to 20 weeks. The second would remove time limits for reporting rape and incest, and the third would consider the mental health of the mother, as well as the physical health. All three amendments were voted down. 

Although the decision happened over the summer, Drake’s Students for Reproductive Justice organization attempted to keep students informed on the new bill. The organization focuses on sexual health education and attempts to spread awareness among students. 

“It was definitely different because we weren’t really active in the summer,” SRJ President Caroline Siebels-Lindquist said. “We’re all really busy, but our social media manager, Keira O’Brien, did keep our Instagram up to date with that information. We were still trying to have that information out and about to our followers.” 

Siebels-Lindquist said that the new abortion bill, as well as other new reproductive health laws, have the potential to affect SRJ’s events on campus. 

“It won’t affect our operations. We will still be the Students for Reproductive Justice organization on campus. We will still be sponsored by Planned Parenthood,”  Siebels-Lindquist said. “I believe that there are going to be some differences…There’s definitely going to be some overlap in what we can and cannot say on campus, what we can and cannot teach, what we can and cannot do and what information we can or cannot give out.” 

Ultimately, Konfrst is concerned that the new status of the new bill will leave Iowans confused on whether or not they can currently access abortions. 

“I think what it does though is it provides a sense of confusion and a chilling effect on access to care when women aren’t sure what the law is,” Konfrst said. “Certainly, it’s important for women and Iowans to know that abortion is legal for up to 20 weeks in the state, and that is the law of the land right now.”

Caroline Siebels-Lindquist is a Times Delphic staff member.


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