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Iowa abortion law | What's next after Roe v. Wade?

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land. Here are the potential next steps for the Iowa Legislature.

IOWA, USA — With the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday, Iowans are wondering how this will affect abortion rights in the state. 

Unlike fellow Midwestern states like Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota, Iowa does not currently have a "trigger ban" on the books, which would allow an abortion ban to go into effect immediately. 

However, Republican leaders in the state have long called for additional abortion restrictions, and there is now the potential for major changes in the legal landscape. 

Let's take a look at what the next steps could be.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling: Roe v. Wade overturned

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that declared abortion a constitutional right across the country in a 6-3 decision.

"The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives," the majority opinion stated.

The decision follows an initial draft of the decision being leaked and published by Politico in early May. 

At the time, the high court confirmed the authenticity of the draft, but stated it was not a final decision.

“Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case," Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement.

What about the Iowa Supreme Court? 

Just last week, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled abortion is not a fundamental right in the state, clearing the way for lawmakers to further limit or ban abortion. 

The ruling reversed a decision by the court made just four years ago that guaranteed the right to the procedure under the Iowa Constitution. 

The Iowa decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by abortion providers who challenged a 2020 law that required a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could get an abortion. 

The state Supreme Court returned the waiting period case to district court. If abortion were banned to be banned in the state altogether, the waiting period will no longer be of relevance. 

What Roe v. Wade being overturned means for Iowans

Now that Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land, state legislators can soon mobilize to ban or limit abortion. According to Drake University Law Professor Sally Frank, courts usually put out a precipice, or final order, about three weeks after an opinion comes out.

“Abortion is still safe and legal in Iowa. People can make appointments, and it will remain safe and legal in Iowa until, or unless, the governor gets a special session of the Legislature together and they pass a law and sign it into law,” Frank told Local 5.  

While advocacy groups such as Planned Parenthood may file for reconsideration, Frank said their chances of success appear unlikely.

Following the precipice, legislators and officials in Iowa can move forward with banning abortion in the state.

Frank said that ban could happen in a few different ways: the governor could wait until a new legislative session starts or Reynolds could call a special session of the Legislature to look at laws on the subject.

“A law would need to be passed to make abortion illegal. Laws that were in effect long ago, pre-Roe v. Wade – once they're found unconstitutional, they don't just revive magically. There needs to be a new law passed,” she said.

Chief Justice Susan Christensen disagreed with the Iowa Supreme Court's overruling of the 2018 decision, saying little has changed since then and that the Iowa Legislature has begun the process of amending the Iowa Constitution to say abortion is not a fundamental right, the people should decide the issue.

“Whether there's an exception for serious health issues for the woman, fetal deformities, raping incest, all of those are up to whatever they're planning. Also, questions about whether it's criminal law, and if it is, is it criminalizing the provider? Or is it also criminalizing the woman? Those are decisions they would need to make,” Frank said. “The only thing, I think, stopping those decisions is if the public lets them know that that's not tolerable or floats them out of office.”

If lawmakers approved an amendment next year, Iowans would have the chance to vote on it as early as 2024.

State lawmakers react

Iowa legislators took to social media following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, potentially indicating what's to come as far as abortion rights in Iowa. 

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley

"Today, the Supreme Court restored a fundamental truth Iowa Republicans have always known – life is precious. These past two weeks have brought significant victories for the pro-life movement both nationally and in Iowa.  Iowa House Republicans will continue to protect the innocent lives of unborn children."

Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst 

“Like millions of Americans, I’m angry and exhausted and fed up with politicians who think they know what’s best for me and my family. While today’s ruling is tough and it might feel hopeless, this fight is NOT over and here’s why: Right now, Iowa law still gives us the final say in making our own healthcare decisions, including abortion. Second, a large majority of Iowans still believe in reproductive freedom because they know everyone deserves the right to decide when to start a family. I am going to fight like hell every single day to make sure every family in Iowa keeps their right to access safe, legal abortions.”

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver

“After decades of prayer, volunteering, and voting, the cause of the unborn won a victory many thought they would never see. As a pro-life caucus, Senate Republicans have led on the protection of life and will continue to do so. We look forward to continuing to advance the cause of the unborn.”

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls

Today’s disastrous Supreme Court decision by six unelected Republican Justices is a direct assault on the freedom of Iowa women to make their own health care decisions and of all Iowans to exercise their rights to privacy and self-determination.

“Here in Iowa, the right to an abortion is grave danger. Iowa Republican politicians have made it clear they want to completely ban abortion without exceptions as quickly as possible. Governor Reynolds, Senate President Jake Chapman, and other Republicans want to completely ban abortion without exceptions.

“Today we must renew our commitment to liberty and justice for all. Iowans must use the ballot box to vote for pro-choice Democrats at every level of government and protect access to abortion, contraception, and other medical services.

“As long as I serve in public office, I will not rest until today’s decision is reversed and abortion rights are permanently protected in Iowa and the United States.”

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