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Iowa Judge Blocks Newly Passed 6-Week Abortion Ban

"The current state of the law" protecting most abortion rights "remains, at least for the time being," the judge said.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs into law a bill that will ban most abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy during a visit to the Family Leadership Summit on July 14, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.

A district judge in Iowa has placed an indefinite hold on a recently passed statewide ban on abortion at six weeks, which had passed last week after a special session was convened by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Polk County District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin issued his ruling on Monday, putting an injunction on the law while a lawsuit challenging it runs its course.

“The current state of the law in Iowa remains, at least for the time being, that some level of constitutional protection applies to women seeking abortion,” Seidlin wrote in his order. The order means that, for now, instead of a six-week ban on abortion, residents in the state can obtain an abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Seidlin said that a previous state Supreme Court decision, which deadlocked 3-3 earlier this year on whether to keep a hold on a six-week “trigger law” ban that went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, meant that he had to side with groups challenging the law. The tie at the state’s highest court meant that an injunction by a different district court would remain in place.

“The court believes it must follow current Iowa Supreme Court precedent and preserve the status quo ante while this litigation … moves forward,” Seidlin said.

The groups that sued over the new state law lauded the ruling by the district judge.

“This order is essential to protecting the bodily autonomy rights and freedom of Iowans, as well as their health and safety, while this unconstitutional and dangerous abortion ban is litigated,” Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa, said in a statement.

“We are deeply relieved that the court granted this relief so essential health care in Iowa can continue,” said Abbey Hardy-Fairbanks, medical director of the Emma Goldman Clinic, according to The New York Times. “We are also acutely aware that the relief is only pending further litigation and the future of abortion in Iowa remains tenuous and threatened.”

Reynolds, meanwhile, promised to challenge the hold on the recently passed law, claiming that the hold by Seidlin was unjustly “thwart[ing] the will of Iowans,” and vowed to oppose it “all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.”

Reynolds’s beliefs on what Iowans prefer on the issue of abortion run counter to evidence suggesting most in the state would likely oppose the six-week measure. A poll published this past spring, for example, shows that 61 percent of Iowa residents support abortion rights in all or most cases, while only 35 percent believe the procedure should be illegal in all or most instances.

Given that the current ban being blocked by Seidlin’s order would restrict abortion during a period when many don’t know that they are pregnant, it’s probably incorrect to say that the order “thwarts” the people’s collective will.

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