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Iowa Supreme Court Upholds 6-Week Abortion Ban

This comes a day after SCOTUS ruled that doctors in Idaho can temporarily resume emergency abortion care.

Demonstrators walk together during a “Rally to Stop the Six-Week Abortion Ban” held at Lake Eola Park on April 13, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. Iowa's Supreme Court upheld a similar ban on June 28, 2024.

“We now live in a state where pregnant people have fewer rights than a bag of trash,” said the Iowa Abortion Access Fund Friday after the state Supreme Court ruled that a six-week abortion ban passed in 2018 can go into effect.

IAAF was quoting Iowa Supreme Court Justice Thomas Waterman, who noted in June 2023, when the court upheld an injunction against the ban, that the state prohibits police officers from searching residents’ trash cans without a warrant.

“It would be ironic and troubling for our court to become the first state Supreme Court in the nation to hold that trash set out in a garbage can for collection is entitled to more constitutional protection than a woman’s interest in autonomy and dominion over her own body,” said Waterman at the time.

Advocates said that was exactly the status of reproductive rights in the state following Friday’s ruling, in which a lower court was ordered to end a temporary block on the six-week ban.

In the 4-3 decision, the court stated that there is no constitutional right to abortion care, with Justice Matthew McDermott writing in the majority opinion that the right to an abortion is “not rooted at all in our state’s history and tradition.”

With so-called exceptions for pregnancies that endanger the life of the patient but no clarifying guidance from state officials about how urgent a pregnant person’s medical condition must be before a doctor can provide an abortion, IAAF warned that the law will prove deadly for Iowans.

“This ruling will deny critical and lifesaving care to pregnant people in the state. Make no mistake: This law will result in the death of Iowans,” said the group.

The other so-called “exceptions” to the six-week ban include pregnancies that result from rape, if the crime is reported to police or a health provider within 45 days; incest, if reported within 45 days, or fatal abnormalities that are “incompatible with life.”

But despite those exceptions — which in many cases since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, have threatened the lives of pregnant people — the ACLU warned that the decision “will force some people to remain pregnant against their will and rob them of their right to make private medical decisions.”

Chief Justice Susan Christensen wrote in a dissent that the law “strips Iowa women of their bodily autonomy,” while Planned Parenthood North Central States called the ruling a “devastating blow.”

“Today’s dangerous and reprehensible ruling will impact Iowans for generations to come,” said Ruth Richardson, president and CEO of the group.

The ruling comes a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that emergency department doctors in Idaho can temporarily resume abortion care for people with pregnancy complications, but did not say that medical providers across the country can legally do the same, regardless of whether their state has an abortion ban — in accordance with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).

Iowa state auditor Rob Sand said the state Republican Party will not stop at taking away people’s right to obtain abortion care.

“The decision strips reproductive freedom away from Iowa women,” said Sand. “No one should doubt Republicans are coming after contraception, surrogacy, and fertility treatments next, even though the majority of Iowans want those decisions to be made by women with their families and physicians.”

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