Prior to 1973
Abortion in Iowa is not legal, except in cases where the woman’s life is in danger. Enforcement varies, especially for women with more resources. Many illegal abortions are performed.
Roe v. Wade Decision
The landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade establishes a woman’s constitutional right to access abortion. This decision applies to all states, including Iowa.
Abortion in Iowa is legal with relatively broad access to abortion services and few changes.
Telemedicine Abortion Ban
The Iowa Board of Medicine unsuccessfully tries to prohibit the use of telemedicine, where doctors dispense medication abortion remotely, even though the process is very safe. This was blocked permanently and unanimously by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2015 under the “undue burden” standard applied to the Iowa Constitution.
72-Hour Waiting Period Law
The Iowa Legislature passes a 72-hour waiting period for abortion, which in practice could delay an abortion by several days or even weeks. This was blocked permanently in a 5-2 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2018, under the “strict scrutiny” standard applied to the Iowa Constitution.
Six-Week Abortion Ban
Iowa passes the mis-named “fetal heartbeat” law banning most abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy. This was blocked permanently by the Iowa district court in 2019, and the state did not appeal that decision at that time.
Abortion Constitutional Amendment
The Iowa Legislature starts the multi-year process to potentially change wording in the state constitution to specifically state that it does not protect any right to an abortion.
24-Hour Waiting Period Law
Law passed requiring a 24-hour waiting period for those seeking an abortion, which in reality can delay an abortion by several days or weeks because of personal and medical scheduling.
We and others were able to block this from taking effect for two years, before the Iowa Supreme Court lowered the constitutional protection for abortion in 2022. As a result, this law is currently in effect.
Roe v. Wade overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court
In a decision with wide implications, Roe is overturned in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. Among other things, it turns the question of abortion rights making abortion laws back to the states. Many states (but not Iowa) have "trigger laws" that authorize them to immediately ban abortion.
Six-Week Abortion Ban Law, Round II
In 2022, Gov. Reynolds has the Alliance Defending Freedom, an overtly religious, out of state advocacy organization, represent the state of Iowa in trying to resurrect the old 2018 six-week ban, which we were able to permanently block in 2019.
But we were able to fight their unusual legal efforts. In its 2022 decision, the district court agreed with us that the state had no proper legal basis to proceed with lifting the 2019 permanent injunction, and in June 2023, the Iowa Supreme Court affirms that district court decision “by operation of law” with a 3-3 tie decision and one justice abstaining.
The state files an appeal on the 2018 decision blocking this law. But the Iowa Supreme Court fails to allow it to be reconsidered. Thus, the 2018 six-week ban remains permanently blocked.
Six-Week Abortion Ban 2.0 (A New Six-Week Abortion Ban Law)
In a special session, the Iowa Legislature passes a new six-week abortion ban. It’s nearly identical to the old, 2018 six-week ban. A lawsuit is immediately filed and the law is temporarily blocked. The state has filed an appeal of the injunction.
Last updated August 2023