Des Moines, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds, the continuing legal battle against the state’s currently blocked six-week abortion ban.
In 2018, Iowa lawmakers enacted a law banning abortions—with few, narrow exceptions—at around six weeks of pregnancy, before many people even know they're pregnant. In 2019, the Polk County District Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and permanently blocked it from going into effect.
But in the summer of 2022, after Roe v. Wade was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and after the Iowa Supreme Court weakened state protections for abortion rights, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds tried to resurrect the 2018 abortion ban in the courts. Last December, an Iowa state district court ruled against her attempt to enforce the 2018 law, which she then appealed.
During the proceedings today, advocates asked the Iowa Supreme Court to leave current abortion access in place. They argued that Gov. Reynolds cannot appeal the 2018 decision blocking the law years later — Iowa requires appeals of final judgments be filed within 30 days and the state did not do that. They also argued that the ban is void because it was in violation of the Iowa Constitution when it was passed.
Statement from Ruth Richardson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States:
“While abortion is still safe and legal in Iowa today, abortion and bodily autonomy are under attack in Iowa,” said Ruth Richardson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “Iowans deserve the right to decide what is best for their bodies and futures, not politicians or judges. An abortion ban would have an enormous impact on Iowans, especially people of color and people with lower incomes. We need more access to health care, not less. People should be able to get the health care they need in their own communities and state.”
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“This case is pivotal in the fight for abortion access in Iowa and beyond. With abortion banned or severely restricted in many surrounding states, Iowa has served as a critical access point for patients across the region seeking this essential health care for the past 10 months. If the Iowa Supreme Court revives this ban, it would block 98 percent of abortions in the state and force pregnant people to either flee the state for care, self manage their abortions outside the medical system, or carry pregnancies to term against their will with profound medical risk and life-altering consequences. We hope the Supreme Court will respect Iowans’ freedom to decide what is best for their bodies, lives, and families without political interference and affirm the district court’s decision to block this cruel ban. Planned Parenthood is proud to fight with our partners for Iowans’ bodily autonomy, and remains committed to using every tool to defend and protect patients’ fundamental right to an abortion.”
Statement from Francine Thompson, Executive Director of the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City:
"The Emma Goldman Clinic once again stands with our partners, the ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, as we continue to work to maintain abortion access in Iowa. We help pregnant women every day to make the best decision for them, their families, their health, and their lives. This law would strip them of that ability. and this law would cut off abortions at around six weeks, before most people even know they're pregnant. It is clearly an attempt to ban abortion in Iowa with practically no exceptions."
Statement from Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa Legal Director:
“The Iowa district court was correct to reject the state’s gambit to revive and enforce an old, draconian abortion ban that was blocked years ago and never took effect, and we hope that the Iowa Supreme Court will maintain the rule of law and uphold that decision. This abortion ban was dangerous, cruel, and unconstitutional when the district court blocked it years ago, and it’s still dangerous, cruel, and unconstitutional today.
If the Court were to allow the ban to take effect, we would see almost all Iowans—more than 98 percent—lose access to safe, legal abortion in our state. These are private decisions that each person has the right to make for themselves about their bodies and lives. It shouldn’t be up to Des Moines politicians to decide what care doctors can provide to their patients. Like bans elsewhere, even the supposed exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the woman in this abortion ban were poorly written, and extremely narrow, such that they would fail to protect people in those extremely difficult circumstances.
We have seen the harm to patients’ health and lives in other states where abortion is banned, and are desperate to protect Iowans from the same heartless, unsafe restrictions here. The outcome of this case could not matter more to the health and basic rights of Iowans. We are honored to work with Planned Parenthood and the Emma Goldman Clinic to work to keep abortion safe and legal in Iowa moving forward.”