While Roe v. Wade protects the right to safe, legal abortion through viability (24 weeks), the state of Iowa has banned the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks, but when they are needed later in pregnancy, it’s often in very complex circumstances. For example, severe fetal anomalies and serious risks to the pregnant person’s health — the kind of situations where that person and their doctor need every medical option available.
In May 2018, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law banning abortion after the detection of a "fetal heartbeat" through abdominal ultrasound (around 6 weeks of pregnancy). The law would ban abortion before most people even know they’re pregnant. It would be the most restrictive abortion ban in the country.
Planned Parenthood is challenging this 6-week abortion ban in the court system, and the law is temporarily blocked until the lawsuit is resolved – meaning abortion remains legal and accessible in Iowa up until 20 weeks.
If you’re under 18, you may or may not have to get parental permission to get an abortion – it depends on the laws where you live. The state of Iowa requires parental notification for those under 18. You do not need parental permission, but the law requires that a parent or a grandparent be told of your decision 48 hours before the abortion. A judge can excuse you from this requirement through a “judicial waiver.”
Since the mid-1990s, several states have moved to make a mandatory ultrasound part of abortion care. In Iowa, the law (1) requires that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound on each person seeking an abortion and (2) requires the provider to offer the pregnant person the opportunity to view the image.
Iowa has a requirement that only licensed physicians can provide abortion care. This runs contrary to evidence and experience demonstrating that other qualified medical practitioners (such as nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants) can safely provide this care, as they do in several other states.
In June 2015, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled to protect access to safe, legal abortion in the state by striking down an unconstitutional ban on telemedicine abortion. Had the 2013 law gone into effect, it would have ended access to safe, legal abortion outside of three Iowa cities – forcing many individuals seeking abortion to take multiple trips of up to 400 miles to access abortion care.
In their decision, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the right to terminate a pregnancy is protected by the Iowa Constitution. The Court also found that a regulation banning medication abortion through telemedicine (1) was not based in medicine and (2) presented substantial obstaceles for a person to exercise their constitutional right to safe, legal abortion.
In June 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down Iowa's unconstitutional 72-hour abortion waiting period. The law would have 1) required a pregnant person seeking abortion to make a second, medically unnecessary clinic appointment and 2) then wait at least 72 hours after that appointment to finally receive abortion services.
The Iowa Supreme Court's decision powerfully asserts that a woman’s equality and freedom are intrinsically tied to her ability to make her own decisions about her body and whether to become a parent. The Court wrote: “Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free. At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world. Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty.”