Media Contact

PPFA: Planned Parenthood Media Office,

PPNCS: Sheena Dooley,

ACLU of Iowa: Veronica Fowler,

June 28, 2024

NOTE TO PRESS: A recording of today’s virtual press conference is available here.

Note: AP style avoids the use of "fetal heartbeat" bill since this legislation addresses neither a fetus (it's still an embryo) nor a heartbeat (it hasn't yet developed a heart).

DES MOINES, IA — The Iowa Supreme Court today dealt a devastating blow to Iowans’ access to essential health care by announcing that the state’s extreme abortion ban can soon take effect while the lawsuit challenging the ban proceeds. The ban had been temporarily blocked from taking effect by a lower court’s order. The Court has now reversed that temporary block and is sending the case back to the lower court with instructions to remove it.

As Chief Justice Christensen explains in her powerful dissent from the Court’s decision, the ban will “force[] pregnant women (and young girls) to endure and suffer through life-altering health complications,” and “the ominous consequences of affirming this level of government intrusion will negatively impact all current and future Iowans.” Chief Justice Christensen notes that the Court's decision "perpetuates the gendered hierarchies of old where women were second-class citizens" and that it also "casts doubt on the stability of rights like contraception, interracial marriage, and same-sex marriage."

Chief Justice Christensen's dissent also details many of the ways the poorly crafted “impractical exceptions” for abortions in situations involving rape, incest, certain fetal abnormalities incompatible with life, miscarriages, or medical emergencies fail to offer pregnant people “any meaningful opportunity to terminate a pregnancy when it threatens their health or ability to carry a child to term in the future” and “are unattainable for many pregnant women and girls.” As the Chief Justice powerfully points out, “Frankly, in many of these situations, they serve as another example of how this statute prioritizes the unborn over the living, placing pregnant women in grave harm in the process.”

Although abortion remains legal in Iowa for now, abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy will soon be prohibited after the case goes back to the district court. Under the Iowa court rules, it will take at least 21 days for the case to go back to the district court. Abortion will remain legal during that time. The ban includes narrow exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest if reported during limited timeframes, for fetal abnormalities, and for pregnant patients experiencing certain medical emergencies. But as Chief Justice Christensen explains in her dissent, those exceptions "ring hollow" and "are fraught with problems" that will limit patients’ ability to access care.

Iowa politicians passed the abortion ban during an unprecedented one-day special session last summer after the Court rejected a similar ban passed in 2018, but the new ban has been blocked by a temporary injunction since shortly after it was signed. Gov. Kim Reynolds asked the Court to reverse the district court decision blocking the six-week ban from taking effect during the lawsuit.

The lawsuit challenging the ban was brought by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the ACLU of Iowa on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (a wholly owned subsidiary of Planned Parenthood North Central States), the Emma Goldman Clinic, and Dr. Sarah Traxler.

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

“Today’s dangerous and reprehensible ruling will impact Iowans for generations to come. Abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care. We want people to know that Planned Parenthood is here and committed to meeting the health care needs of as many patients as possible. We have spent months planning for the possibility of this new reality, putting in place patient navigators and other supports to connect patients with the care they so desperately need—both now and in the future. Every person deserves to have the full range of sexual and reproductive health care they need, including abortion, no matter their ZIP code. Each patient is the expert on their own life, and we trust patients to make decisions about their health, families, and futures. We will not give up. We have been fighting extreme abortion bans since 2018, and in that time, we’ve also provided abortion to over 11,500 Iowans. That’s thousands of patients who had the freedom to control their bodies, lives, and futures because we kept fighting, and we won’t stop now. We won’t stop until everyone has the freedom to access the sexual and reproductive health care they need.”

Statement from Francine Thompson, Executive Director of the Emma Goldman Clinic

“Today’s ruling dealt a devastating blow to reproductive freedom and health care in Iowa that will affect generations to come and not be easily undone. We remain committed to helping connect Iowans with the essential, life-saving health care they need and deserve. The courts and politicians have no place in our exam rooms. Today marks a dark day in our state’s history that robs Iowans of their fundamental right to make what should be fully informed, private medical decisions. It will have devastating impacts on already poor health outcomes in Iowa and force people into pregnancy. We want our patients to know we are here and ready to help them navigate this manufactured chaos and confusion.”

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

“We are devastated by today’s ruling and the harmful consequences it will have on essential health care in Iowa. This ban will push abortion care out of reach for thousands of Iowans. Planned Parenthood is committed to supporting patients and will continue to fight for everyone to be able to access the health care they need and deserve without unnecessary political interference.”

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

“We are heartbroken by the Court’s decision to allow Iowa’s abortion ban to take effect. We know that many Iowans will need this care and now will face unjust and, for some, impossible obstacles in getting it, requiring those whose resources, circumstances, and safety allow them to leave the state to get care. Others will face serious and even life-threatening health consequences as a result of this dangerous and poorly written law. Some will be forced to remain pregnant against their will. This is not what most Iowans want. We know most Iowans want to protect abortion rights and keep politicians out of their private medical decisions. We are committed to continuing the work with all Iowans to secure abortion rights in our state again.”

The full opinion is here.