The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

One year post Roe v. Wade overturning, rapid injunction follows passing of fetal heartbeat bill

Iowa legislature passes fetal heartbeat bill one-year post-Roe v Wade being overturned, with a Polk County judge passing an injunction on the law just three days later.
Gabby Drees
Protesters leave the University of Iowa Pentacrest to march at a pro-abortion rights protest on Friday, June 24, 2022. The march went down to College Green Park, down Burlington Street and through the Pedestrian Mall before ending at the Pentacrest.

The nation’s wave of abortion bans started with the Supreme Court ruling which overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. In the year since the Roe decision, Iowa City has felt the gravity of the Supreme Court decision in the changes the state has faced.

On July 14, 2023, the Iowa legislature banned abortion at the six-week mark. On July 17, a Polk County judge placed an injunction on the new law.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, the nonprofit organization Planned Parenthood saw a nearly 100 percent increase in patients traveling from outside the Midwest to get an abortion in Minnesota, Iowa, or Nebraska. The organization has seen an increase in patients coming from states like Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri.

This is due in part to many states outright banning abortion with no exceptions, including for cases of rape or incest. According to The New York Times, 14 states have passed laws that completely ban any abortion, while another five have banned it only after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Ruth Richardson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, spoke at a conference on June 15 that abortion access has been decimated since Roe was overturned over a year ago.

“Today, people are hurting, they need help, and we are doing everything we can. We know that abortion bans do not ban abortions for everyone, just those without the means and opportunity to travel, creating more barriers for people with low incomes,” Richardson said. “These bans also serve to increase the persistent and unacceptable maternal health disparities that we see states with the most restrictive abortion laws have the worst maternal health outcomes.”

Planned Parenthood has seen an increase in abortion patients that have to drive long distances to their appointments. Some patients must travel farther for abortion care because many cannot access care in their own states after recent legislation. Some states have protected abortion rights, while others work to dismantle those rights.

“While our neighbors and other states around the country decimate abortion access reproductive rights trans rights and access to gender-affirming health care, Minnesota has protected rights by expanding abortion access by investing in sexual and reproductive healthcare,” Richardson said in the release. “We know people are coming here for this care to exercise their right to control their bodies, their health, and their futures.”

Richardson stated that Planned Parenthood has staff dedicated to patient navigators who work every day to help patients get to their abortion appointments. These staff members are lifelines to patients who often feel scared and hopeless, and have helped over 1,600 patients get to their abortion appointments since June.

“Increasing maternal mortality rates continue to climb, pregnancy is becoming more and more dangerous in America and inequities are growing too,” Richardson stated. “As we approach the one-year anniversary of Roe being overturned, I want everyone to know that Planned Parenthood is doing everything we can to ensure that we can help as many people as we can.”

Doctor Sarah Traxler, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States, also spoke at the conference in June and said that since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, she has seen the environment in health centers become very heavy and emotional.

“In Minnesota, we are a haven so it feels really stressful because we’re trying to work to see as many patients as we possibly can but there are only so many hours in the day to see all of the patients,” Traxler said. “Our wait lists for certain procedures are longer and our staff are really feeling the urgency to get people in. And because we know with a heavy heart that if we can’t see them in Minnesota there’s a possibility that they’re not going to be seen anywhere and we don’t know what might happen to them.”

The Planned Parenthood health centers are still serving their communities while also providing care to patients from outside the region. Traxler stated it has been beneficial to be a regional abortion provider that helps a large geographic region, and that she is happy to be able to provide care and support to patients and get them resources that they need that they potentially do not have access to in another state.

Traxler ultimately stated that Planned Parenthood’s patients and staff have experienced an intense year. The impact she has seen from the overturning of Roe v Wade has caused emotional, psychological, and financial stress for patients and staff alike.

She predicted there will be more clinical outcomes in the future and that it will impact the worst maternal and infant morbidity and mortality and affect minority populations.

“We are committed here at Planned Parenthood to continue doing everything we can. We are here for our patients, we will always be here for our patients, and I am determined and honored to do this work every single day,” Traxler said.

Contrastingly, pro-life groups on campus believe that things are changing for the better in Iowa City.

In an email to The Daily Iowan, a group of members from the pro-life student organization Young Americans for Freedom commented on the Supreme Court decision.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, saving countless future lives and returning power to the states, was the right one,” the group wrote. “As conservatives, we believe every life has meaning and value – especially those of the unborn who depend on us to protect their very right to exist.”

YAF also encouraged conversation around the topic of abortion on campus.

“Those of us who are pro-life have an opportunity to share our beliefs about the importance of protecting the lives of the unborn. The discussions aren’t always easy, but they are worth it,” YAF wrote.

The organization was recently under the University of Iowa’s spotlight for prompting campus-wide discussion around hosting outspoken conservative Matt Walsh for a screening of his documentary-style film “What Is a Woman?”

RELATED: Hundreds protest, attend lecture of conservative commentator Matt Walsh at UI

Though the changes in the post-Roe world have been felt by pro-choice and pro-life groups alike, no change has been more noticeable than the abortion legislation passed on Tuesday, July 11.

The legislation came after the Iowa Supreme Court was deadlocked on June 16 regarding a previous abortion bill that had been stuck in an injunction. The bill, often known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, would ban abortions after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, or around six weeks of pregnancy. The bill was first passed by the state in 2018, but with the court’s tie, it was permanently blocked.

On the same day, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released a press statement highlighting her disappointment with the outcome.

“There is no fundamental right to abortion and any law restricting it should be reviewed on a rational basis standard – a fact acknowledged today by three of the justices.  Still, without an affirmative decision, there is no justice for the unborn,” Reynolds wrote.

Afterward, Reynolds announced she would call for a special session that would attempt to pass another abortion bill, with the session scheduled to be held on July 11. Accompanying the announcement of the special session was a statement from Reynolds, in which she called the pro-life movement “one of the most important human rights causes today.”

“Not only will I continue to fight against the inhumanity of abortion, but I will also remain committed to supporting women in planning for motherhood, promoting fatherhood and parenting, and continuing policies that encourage strong families,” Reynolds wrote.

On July 11, the Iowa House held its special session, where it voted 56-34 to pass House File 732, banning abortion when a heartbeat is detectable. During the session, members of the public were allowed to comment on the bill, being split into two groups: one for, one against, lasting an hour and a half.

Speaking for the side opposing the bill were many women who had had abortions themselves, and emphasized the need for and importance of having abortion access in the state. On the other side of the issue were other women who spoke about their belief that abortion should be banned, instead emphasizing the importance of raising families.

After the public comment period, the House went into a closed session to discuss and debate the bill. House members were given a deadline of 11 p.m. to finish their discussions, as they would be required to take a vote at that time if they had not already.

After the House passed the bill, Reynolds released a statement regarding its passing.

“Today, the Iowa legislature once again voted to protect life and end abortion at a heartbeat, with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother,” Reynolds wrote. “The Iowa Supreme Court questioned whether this legislature would pass the same law they did in 2018, and today they have a clear answer. The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives cannot be ignored any longer, and justice for the unborn should not be delayed.”

Reynolds signed the bill into Iowa law three days later on Friday, July 14.

At the Family Leader Summit in Des Moines the same day, where she signed the bill into law, Reynolds delivered remarks shortly regarding its signing.

“We have a responsibility not only to protect the unborn in law but to change the destructive culture of abortion that still exists in a post-Roe world,” Reynolds said. “Even with the fetal heartbeat bill, the fight continues for a robust culture of life that welcomes children, supports mothers, and involves fathers. As a pro-life governor, I will continue to promote policies designed to surround every person involved in a pregnancy with protection, love, and support.”

State Senator for District 45, Janice Weiner, described House File 732 in an interview with the DI and discussed the potential legal pitfalls written into the bill.

“The practical effect is to cut off about 98 percent of abortions in the state,” Weiner said.

The bill was a product of a special session that would usually grant a 90-day window between passage and enforcement, according to Weiner. However, a provision in House File 732 mandated that the bill be instituted immediately. This development could leave Iowa’s medical association scrambling in its wake.

“Those 90 days, regardless of what else I think about the bill, would have given the board of medicine time to produce rules, so that doctors and hospitals and anybody else involved knows what they’re dealing with,” Weiner said.

Weiner also points to some of the confusion around the language within House File 732.

“We were told multiple times to look at the plain language of the bill,” Weiner said. “It is not clear. And very similar language has been used in a number of other states, and those are the same states where we are seeing horror story after horror story of women and girls not able to get care because the language is unclear.”

The unclear language surrounding exceptions is something that Weiner felt is particularly dangerous to Iowa constituents.

“Another challenge is, they claim there’s an exception for rape and incest. Nowhere in the Iowa code is rape defined,” Weiner said. “I forget what the term is: sexual violence or sexual assault, something. It’s not called rape. So, by putting in these completely arbitrary time deadlines and requirements for reporting, unfortunately, guarantee that the exception is not an exception.”

The stipulations of this bill included exceptions for medical emergencies, rape reported within 45 days of the incident, and incest reported within 145 days of the incident. The bill also contains a clause prohibiting imposing “civil or criminal liability on a woman upon whom an abortion is performed in violation of this section.”

When asked about how this clause will be protected, Weiner said that Senate Democrats attempted to gain clarification multiple times on the floor.

“The best we got is that they don’t intend to do anything to the women,” Weiner said.

She also spoke of Iowa constituents and their beliefs on the topic.

“We’ve seen it in the polling here in Iowa, which I believe on this issue is pretty accurate because we’ve seen it over and over again, but a substantial majority of Iowa supports keeping abortion legal and safe.” Weiner said. “One of the questions I keep asking myself is, ‘Why is it okay to ignore constituents, to ignore the voters?’”

Most recently on Monday, July 17, only three days after it was passed, a Polk County judge placed an injunction on the new abortion law. The ruling comes as a court challenge over the legality of the law plays out. As a result, abortion up to 20 weeks has become legal in Iowa once again.

Reynolds reacted to the ruling in a statement released after the judge’s decision.

“The abortion industry’s attempt to thwart the will of Iowans and the voices of their elected representatives continues today, but I will fight this all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court where we expect a decision that will finally provide justice for the unborn,” Reynolds stated.

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About the Contributors
Ellie Heeren, Digital Producer
Ellie Heeren is a digital producer at The Daily Iowan. She is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in English with an emphasis in publishing.
Hannah Janson, News Reporter
Alejandro Rojas, News Editor
Alejandro Rojas is The Daily Iowan's news editor. He previously worked as a news reporter covering Johnson County and was the summer executive editor in 2023. He is a senior, double majoring in journalism and political science.
Gabby Drees, Photojournalist/Videographer
Email: [email protected] Gabby Drees is a photo editor and film maker at The Daily Iowan. She is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and political science.