Iowa: Reproductive Care and Abortion in the Hawkeye State

As you know from reading my posts here on The Pulse, and probably also from living through 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled on the Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case, and in doing so overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision. Given how the different US states have been reacting, this turn of events has left the US with a patchwork of very different legal situations, surrounding abortion, and also fertility treatment, and pregnancy care and family planning among the states.

Now during our tour of US states in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision states, we have discussed some states that are very supportive of abortion and reproductive rights, both for their own residents and those from out-of-state. Such states include New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, New Mexico, Washington, North Carolina, and certain others are protecting the right to choose up to the point of fetal viability (24-26 weeks gestation) or close to that point, or beyond it. North Carolina, for instance, allows abortion up to 20 weeks and six days, and some states, such as Oregon, have no time limit. Such states are becoming destinations for abortion seekers from out-of-state. At the other end of the spectrum are states with laws extremely hostile to abortion, and with it reproductive health overall. Such states include Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arizona, and Missouri. There also are in between states, such as Florida, where you can have an abortion up through the 15th week, but even that right stands on shaky ground that depends a lot on outcomes of the November election (which may have taken place by the time that this post publishes). Interestingly, there are some states in which abortion rights are being upheld, despite strong majorities of anti-choice Republican politicians in the state legislatures and governors, because of either the state constitution or the court system. Such states include Kansas, Alaska, Montana, and Ohio. In Kansas, despite its strong Republican leanings and active anti-abortion politicians and organizations, the people came out and voted strongly on a ballot measure in favor of keeping a guarantee of the right to choose in the Kansas state Constitution. Since we have been through the Midwest, it’s time now to consider the one state in that region that we have not mentioned in its own post, Iowa. How does the abortion situation look in the Buckeye state?

As of the writing of this post in late October, Iowa is another Republican-leaning state with anti-abortion activists and politicians who are trying to end abortion, yet hitting resistance in the state court system. This might have changed by the time that you are reading this, but as of October 28, you can have an abortion in Iowa up to 21 weeks, 6 days of pregnancy. This means that you can receive either a  medication abortion, which is available up to gestational day 77 (the end of the 11th week of pregnancy) or a procedural abortion. The latter means an abortion performed with instruments, which can be a dilation and curettage, dilation and suction, or one of other similar procedures. This also makes Iowa a travel option for abortion seekers in Missouri, who also can travel to Illinois, Kansas, and (as of the writing of this post) most parts of Nebraska.

Unfortunately, if you are under the age of 18, Iowa requires either parental notification, or a judicial bypass. The latter is an option for young women who cannot, or will not be able to notify a parent, or do not want the parents to know. Usually, parents are very supportive, but in those cases when they are not, the judicial bypass puts the case before a judge. The judge can decide that the young woman is not mature enough to choose abortion, but this places the judge in the situation of implying that the young woman is mature enough to become a parent. Given this absurdity, most judges grant the bypass, but this is by no means a guarantee. As with the other states in which anti-choice politicians and activists are trying to end abortion rights, the November election can make a very big difference, so if you live in Iowa, make sure to get out and vote.

David Warmflash
Dr. David Warmflash is a science communicator and physician with a research background in astrobiology and space medicine. He has completed research fellowships at NASA Johnson Space Center, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brandeis University. Since 2002, he has been collaborating with The Planetary Society on experiments helping us to understand the effects of deep space radiation on life forms, and since 2011 has worked nearly full time in medical writing and science journalism. His focus area includes the emergence of new biotechnologies and their impact on biomedicine, public health, and society.

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