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ACLU of Iowa Communications Director Veronica Fowler,

July 17, 2023

The blocked law is nearly identical to a 2018 law that has been permanently struck down.

Des Moines, Iowa — Today, an Iowa state district court granted abortion providers’ request to temporarily block a newly-enacted ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. For now, abortion in Iowa remains safe and legal. The new law briefly took effect on Friday, July 14, after being signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The ban, HF 732, is virtually identical to a 2018 law kept blocked by the Iowa Supreme Court in June. In the order granting a temporary injunction, the district court confirmed that under Iowa Supreme Court precedent, abortion restrictions that unduly burden the right to abortion are unconstitutional, writing that the court “does not get to declare that our Supreme Court got it wrong and then impose a different standard. Such would be an alarming exercise of judicial activism. This court is bound to decide this matter pursuant to the instruction of our Supreme Court.” 

The lawsuit — brought by the Emma Goldman Clinic, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and Dr. Sarah Traxler — asserts that by banning the vast majority of abortions, this law violates Iowans’ constitutional rights to abortion and substantive due process. The ban also violates the Iowa Constitution’s Inalienable Rights Clause, which explicitly guarantees those rights to women and guarantees equal protection under state law.

HF 732 bans abortion before many people know they are pregnant. While the ban contains some so-called exceptions, the reality is that if it goes into effect, the vast majority of Iowans will be unable to access abortion. In addition to narrow exceptions for the life of a pregnant person and certain medical emergencies, the bill also purports to provide exceptions to the ban for certain survivors of rape and incest, those experiencing miscarriage, and those with particular fetal diagnoses. However, each exception includes significant barriers to accessing care. The experiences of patients and providers across the country have demonstrated that so-called exceptions like those in Iowa’s abortion ban are unworkable, put patients’ lives at risk, and further deprive people of their reproductive freedom.

“We are deeply relieved that the court granted this relief so essential health care in Iowa can continue. We are also acutely aware that the relief is only pending further litigation and the future of abortion in Iowa remains tenuous and threatened,” said Dr. Abbey Hardy-Fairbanks, medical director of the Emma Goldman Clinic.

“Today’s ruling means patients across Iowa will be able to access abortion care and retain control over their bodies and futures. We are proud to continue providing the care our patients need and deserve,” said Ruth Richardson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “The fight to preserve Iowans’ fundamental right to reproductive freedom is far from over. We will continue to oppose this egregious, unconstitutional ban as it works its way through the courts."

“We are relieved that Iowans will be protected in their ability to seek abortion care for the time being under the order issued today,” said Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa. “This order is essential to protecting the bodily autonomy rights and freedom of Iowans, as well as their health and safety, while this unconstitutional and dangerous abortion ban is litigated. We know Iowans stand with us in wanting to protect abortion rights and keep politicians out of doctor-patient decisionmaking. We are also grateful to the court for hearing and deciding this case so quickly, as necessitated by the state’s unnecessarily cruel emergency effective date provision.” 

“Today’s ruling brings relief to abortion patients who can continue receiving care in Iowa,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “But this fight is not over. We know that some Iowa politicians are hellbent on banning abortion in defiance of the state constitution, and will keep trying to deny Iowans’ access to essential health care. While these attacks continue, Planned Parenthood and our partners will not back down.”