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Activists Call for Protests of Iowa Governor’s Anti-Abortion Special Session

Iowa’s six-week abortion ban is currently blocked by a judicial injunction.

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a campaign event at Sioux Gateway Airport on November 3, 2022, in Sioux City, Iowa.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) announced on Wednesday that due to a recent deadlock in the state Supreme Court, she will be calling legislators to a special session to further restrict abortion rights.

In a statement issued this week, Reynolds said that the Republican-run legislature would convene on July 11, with the “sole purpose of enacting legislation that addresses abortion.”

“Not only will I continue to fight against the inhumanity of abortion, but I will also remain committed to supporting women in planning for motherhood, promoting fatherhood and parenting, and continuing policies that encourage strong families,” said the governor, who earlier this year sought to cut Medicaid and food stamp benefits from thousands of families.

A 2018 trigger law banning abortion after six weeks has been in effect since the U.S. Supreme Court upended abortion rights protections in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last year. But that law was blocked through a stay by a state district court, and last month, the state Supreme Court reached a 3-3 deadlock on an appeal of that ruling. The deadlock means that the injunction on the law remains in place and that abortion is legal in Iowa, for the time being, for up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Reynolds claimed that the “lack of action” by the state’s high court “disregards the will of Iowa voters and lawmakers.” But reproductive rights advocates have noted that voters are widely opposed to draconian abortion restrictions, and favor keeping the procedure legal.

“Regardless of our personal beliefs, we can all agree that Iowans deserve the right to control their futures and access to reproductive health care,” said Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, in a statement on Thursday.

Stilwell is encouraging state residents who favor reproductive rights to protest the state legislature during the special session.

“Now is the time for Iowans to raise their voices and hold their elected officials accountable for every vote they take in their march to take away our rights and bodily autonomy,” she said.

Beyond the special session, which will likely pass another abortion bill that will likely face judicial scrutiny, Republicans are in the middle of passing a constitutional amendment declaring that the state’s highest governing document does not confer a right to abortion. To pass an amendment, two consecutive sessions of the state legislature must pass the same measure, which would then be put on the ballot for voters to decide on.

The special session will not address the current constitutional amendment proposal, which passed in 2022 but must also pass in 2024 before voters can decide on it.

Polling from earlier this year indicates that most Iowans oppose the six-week abortion ban, and likely won’t support a new statute banning abortion from the special session, much less an anti-abortion constitutional amendment in the years ahead. According to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa survey published in March, 61 percent of residents say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while only 35 percent say that it should be banned in nearly every circumstance.

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