Media Contact

Sheena Dooley, Communications Manager for PPNCS,
Veronica Lorson Fowler, ACLU of Iowa Communications Director,

June 16, 2023

Des Moines, Iowa — Today, the Iowa Supreme Court kept in place the 2018 permanent block of Iowa's six-week abortion law. That law, if enacted, would have banned abortion in Iowa after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, which is before many people know they are pregnant.

The high court was divided 3-3, so following Court rules in such ties, the district court’s 2018 decision blocking the injunction remains in place.

As Justice Waterman wrote for the three justices who voted to keep the ban blocked, “The undue burden test remains the governing standard under the Iowa Constitution, and the State concedes, as it must, that the fetal heartbeat bill is unconstitutional under that test. The State therefore has failed to establish that the district court acted illegally."

Waterman then reiterated that "[i]t would be ironic and troubling for our court to become the first state supreme court in the nation to hold that trash set out in a garbage can for collection is entitled to more constitutional protection than a woman’s interest in autonomy and dominion over her own body."

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last summer, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds tried to resurrect the 2018 abortion ban, which had been ruled unconstitutional and blocked in Polk County District Court. That court ruled in favor of abortion providers, blocking Gov. Reynolds’s efforts. Gov. Reynolds then appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. Today’s ruling—the culmination of her challenge—leaves the ban permanently blocked, ensuring that doctors can continue providing abortion care to patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy in a region decimated by state abortion bans.

Statement from Ruth Richardson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States:

"Today’s order is an enormous win, and it means that Iowans will be able to control their bodies and their futures. Your ZIP code shouldn’t determine who controls your uterus. Each person deserves control of their body, and Iowans have that right, based on today’s court order. 

"Abortion bans make pregnancy more dangerous than it already is, and it shouldn’t matter which state you live in. I am so proud that Planned Parenthood will continue providing abortion care in Iowa, with compassion and understanding for every single patient who walks through our doors."

Statement from Francine Thompson, Executive Director of the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City:

"The Emma Goldman Clinic celebrates the Iowa Supreme Court order to leave permanently blocked the harmful 6-week abortion ban. The ruling today helps to safeguard the rights of individuals to make decisions about their own bodies and reproductive futures. The result protects reproductive freedom and is a significant step forward in protecting the health and well-being of those seeking comprehensive healthcare services in Iowa.

"At the Emma Goldman Clinic, we have tirelessly advocated for the preservation of reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. We firmly believe that access to safe and legal abortion care is an essential component of comprehensive reproductive healthcare services. This ruling affirms our commitment to supporting the autonomy and well-being of our patients."

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

"The outcome of the Iowa Supreme Court’s order was to affirm that the district court made the right decision by rejecting this cruel ban and respecting Iowans’ freedom to decide what is best for their own bodies, lives, and families without political interference. 

This case has been pivotal to the fight for abortion access throughout the region, as Iowa has served as a critical access point during the 11 months since the overturning of Roe v Wade. With this ruling, thousands of patients seeking care in Iowa and beyond can continue to receive the necessary, life-saving care that they need. This is a victory for Iowans’ bodily autonomy and freedom, and Planned Parenthood remains committed to defending patients’ fundamental right to an abortion."

Statement from Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa Legal Director:

"We are overjoyed and relieved by the Iowa Supreme Court’s order today, which leaves the six-week ban on abortion in Iowa permanently blocked. 

"The order today affirmed the district court ruling by operation of law, leaving the district court's decision undisturbed. The district court had rightly rejected the state’s unprecedented legal maneuvers to try to ban abortion in our state. 

"This law was dangerous, cruel, and unconstitutional when the district court blocked it four years ago, and it’s still dangerous, cruel, and unconstitutional today. Many Iowans were depending on the outcome of the case today, and we are celebrating the preservation of our freedom, health, and safety. 

"Evidence in the case showed that the six-week ban would block more than 98 percent of abortions in our state. Even the supposed exceptions it had for rape, incest, and the life of the woman were poorly written and extremely narrow, such that they would fail to protect people in those extremely difficult circumstances. 

"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."

The plaintiffs, the Emma Goldman Clinic and Planned Parenthood North Central States, are represented by the ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The full order can be read here.