On Friday, the Republican governor of Iowa signed into law a strict new ban on abortion. And for three days, most abortions in Iowa were illegal beyond six weeks of pregnancy. Until Monday afternoon, when a district judge lifted the ban.
Polk County District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin said the new ban would be suspended while the larger legal case against it moved forward. He said in his ruling that plaintiffs who filed suits against the ban, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, were likely to be successful on the merits of their case.
That means abortion in Iowa is legal again until about 22 weeks into a pregnancy, at least for now.
« We are deeply relieved that the court has granted this relief so that essential health care in Iowa can continue, » said Dr. Abbey Hardy-Fairbanks, medical director of the Emma Goldman Clinic, one of the plaintiffs. « We are also keenly aware that relief is just pending further litigation and the future of abortion in Iowa remains tenuous and under threat. »
Legal whiplash is the latest twist in the conservative state’s long struggle to limit the procedure. At least a dozen Republican states have banned or severely restricted abortion since the US Supreme Court ruled last year that it was not protected under the Constitution.
In 2018, Iowa lawmakers approved a six-week ban that was challenged in court and couldn’t be enforced when the state Supreme Court deadlocked in June. The governor, Kim Reynolds, called a special session to pass another ban, which the legislature did this month.
« The abortion industry’s attempt to thwart the will of Iowanians and the voices of their elected representatives continues today, but I will fight all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, where we expect a decision that will finally deliver justice for the unborn. » « said the Governor. Reynolds said Monday.
In his ruling, Justice Seidlin said he chose to preserve the status quo established by the Iowa Supreme Court when it stalled on the previous ban and called the new bill « virtually identical » to the one passed in 2018.
« There are good, honorable, intelligent people — morally, politically, and legally — on both sides of this shocking social and constitutional dilemma, » he wrote in his ruling.
Iowa Democrats said the decision, while not the final word on the case, was a victory.
« Iowans support and deserve their basic right to make health care decisions about their own bodies, » said Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, House Democratic Minority Leader.
THE measure approved last week by the Republicans allows abortions until there is a « detectable fetal heartbeat » — a term that medical groups dispute, but which those against abortion say occurs at about six weeks into pregnancy, before many women realize I realize I’m pregnant. Iowa Vendors and Abortion Rights Advocates filed lawsuit within hours of the passage of the legislature, stating that it was unconstitutional by the standard of « undue burden ».
The legislation includes exceptions after that point in cases of rape or incest, when the woman’s life is in grave danger or at risk of some permanent injury, or when fetal abnormalities « incompatible with life » are present.