Iowa Abortion Ban Halted: A Win for Bodily Autonomy, But For How Long?

In a victory for advocates of reproductive rights, an Iowa district judge has hit pause on a recently enacted statewide ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. This drastic law, signed into action last week by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, is now on hold courtesy of Polk County District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin.

Monday’s ruling sets in motion an indefinite injunction on the law as a lawsuit questioning its constitutionality moves forward. Judge Seidlin eloquently noted that the legal landscape in Iowa still upholds that “some level of constitutional protection applies to women seeking abortion.” Thanks to this order, the women of Iowa will, at least temporarily, continue to have access to abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

A previous state Supreme Court decision that stalled on whether to maintain a restriction on a six-week “trigger law” ban, resulted in a 3-3 deadlock. This deadlock essentially meant a different district court’s injunction would persist, thereby influencing Judge Seidlin’s decision.

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

The groups challenging the law, including the ACLU of Iowa, welcomed Judge Seidlin’s ruling with open arms. Rita Bettis Austen, the legal director of the ACLU of Iowa, declared this order vital to safeguarding Iowans’ bodily autonomy rights and their health and safety while they combat this “unconstitutional and dangerous abortion ban.”

“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. She further acknowledged the precariousness of the situation, acknowledging that the relief granted is merely a respite pending more litigation, and “the future of abortion in Iowa remains tenuous and threatened.”

Not every one shared in the relief, however. Governor Reynolds countered the court’s decision, pledging to oppose the order, which she views as unjustly “thwarting the will of Iowans.” Reynolds seems set on taking the fight to the Iowa Supreme Court.

But does Reynolds truly represent the “will of Iowans”? A recent poll would suggest otherwise. The survey revealed that 61 percent of Iowans support abortion rights in most or all cases, while only 35 percent believe the procedure should be illegal in most or all situations.

Considering this six-week ban would inhibit access to abortion during a period when many may not even know they’re pregnant, it’s questionable to claim that halting the law subverts the collective will of the people. Today, the rights of women in Iowa are safeguarded, but with the threat of further litigation looming, the fight for reproductive rights is far from over.