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
Especially in rural areas where it can be difficult to get the time, money, and transportation to get to a doctor's office, doctors may supervise a person taking the oral abortion medication remotely via teleconferencing. But the Iowa Board of Medicine unsuccessfully tried to prohibit the use of telemedicine, where doctors dispense medication abortion remotely, even though the process is very safe. Fortunately, 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 Passed
The Iowa Legislature passes a 72-hour waiting period for abortion, which in practice could delay an abortion by weeks. We sue and block it, with a 5-2 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2018. Importantly, the Court finds that abortion is a "fundamental right" and subject to “strict scrutiny” under the Iowa Constitution.
Six-Week Abortion Ban 1.0 Passed
Iowa passes the mis-named “fetal heartbeat” law banning most abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy (at that stage, it's not a fetus; it's an embryo. And it does not have a heart, only electrical cardiac impulses.) We sue and it is 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 the Iowa Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion.
24-Hour Waiting Period Law Passed
This law requires a 24-hour waiting period for those seeking an abortion, which in reality can delay an abortion by weeks. We sue and the law is temporarily blocked.
Iowa Supreme Court Permits 24-Hour Waiting Period Law
Although we had been able to get a temporary block, which lasted two years, on this law the Iowa Supreme Court lowered the constitutional protection for abortion in June 2022 and allowed the law to go into effect. Devastatingly, the Court also lessened the constitutional protection for abortion under the Iowa Constitution from "strict scrutiny" to "undue burden."
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 on June 24, 2022. Among other things, it turns the question of abortion rights back to the states. Many states (but not Iowa) have "trigger laws" that authorize them to immediately ban abortion.
Six-Week Abortion Ban 1.0 Law Not Revived
Gov. Reynolds tries to resurrect this law, which was passed in 2018 and permanently blocked by the courts, with unusual legal maneuvers. Eventually, this attempt ends up in front of the Iowa Supreme Court, which did not remove the block on the law. So 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, but it remains blocked while litigation continues.
Last updated September 2023