Iowa Supreme Court halts 6-week abortion ban

Iowa's six-week abortion ban will remain permanently blocked after the state's supreme court issued a deadlocked 3-3 decision on Friday. The court was split on whether Republican Governor Kim Reynolds could reinstate the ban, which was passed in 2018 but struck down by the courts. The law would have banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy in Iowa. However, since the court failed to reach a majority consensus, the existing 20-week rule will remain in place. The court heard oral arguments on the case in April, where attorneys for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic urged justices to hold up the existing 20-week rule.

The fetal heartbeat law was passed in Iowa in 2018, but a district judge struck it down the next year, holding that "a woman's right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution." Since then, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to abortion is not guaranteed under the state constitution and after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1972 Roe V. Wade case protecting abortion access. By default, abortion will remain legal in Iowa until 20 weeks of pregnancy. The state has a mandatory 24-hour waiting period between a patient's initial appointment and the procedure.

It is worth noting that over the last 14 years, 18 cases before the Iowa Supreme Court have ended in a deadlock. In all of those cases, the court issued no opinions. However, in the abortion case, all six voting judges submitted opinions on the fetal heartbeat bill. Abortion access remains a highly controversial issue in the US, with various states introducing restrictive laws. South Carolina's six-week abortion ban was recently paused by a judge, and Nebraska is currently being sued by the ACLU over a law restricting both gender-affirming care and abortions.

In summary, Iowa's supreme court's deadlocked decision means that the state's existing 20-week rule for abortion access will remain in place, and the six-week abortion ban will remain permanently blocked. While abortion access remains a contentious issue in the US, this decision is unlikely to significantly change the status quo.


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