SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — A four-year-old court battle was once again in the Iowa Supreme Court Tuesday. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa held a press conference over Zoom to answer questions and outline their argument for Iowans.

The CEO of Planned Parenthood of the North Central States, Ruth Richardson, said the organization is preparing in case the State Supreme Court reinstates the six-week abortion ban by talking with partners in Texas. Richardson emphasized that the ban would likely hurt poor and marginalized communities in Iowa.

Rita Bettis Austen, the legal director for the ACLU of Iowa explained that the law bans 98% of abortions that take place in Iowa.

“The way that pregnancy is dated by doctors, which is by the last menstrual period, so when we’re talking about 6 weeks of pregnancy, that’s just 2 weeks after a missed period,” Bettis Austen said.

The crux of both arguments is how legal standards have changed since 2018, when the bill was first signed into law. Governor Kim Reynols’ attorney argued the wrong standard is being used to judge the 6-week abortion ban, saying the law should be considered under the “rational basis” standard, which is the most permissive threshold. When the law was passed in 2018, it was subject to the most rigorous test, “strict scrutiny”.

The attorney for Planned Parenthood said that a middle-ground is the legal standard for the 6-week abortion ban based on precedent.

“Last year, in the planned parenthood of the heartland ruling, that court left in place the undue burden standard, and the state is trying to challenge that,” Peter Im, staff attorney for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said. “So our understanding of the Iowa law right now is that the undue burden standard governs, and under the undue burden, the 6-week ban is absolutely unconstitutional,” Im said.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds put out a statement Tuesday saying in part that she is optimistic the Iowa Supreme Court will allow the six-week abortion ban to take effection

“I remain optimistic that the Iowa Supreme Court will allow the fetal heartbeat bill to take effect as the Iowa Constitution requires. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, decision-making power has been returned to the states. Our citizens and their elected officials have chosen to promote Life and end abortion at a heartbeat, with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.” 

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in late June.

Timeline of the 6-week abortion ban

  • In 2018, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. It was immediately challenged by abortion rights groups.
  • In 2019, a district judge issued an injunction on the law. That decision was upheld by the state Supreme Court that same year.
  • In the summer following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade in 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court also ruled that abortion was not protected by the state’s constitution.
  • Later that year, Governor Reynolds filed a motion to lift the injunction.
  • December 2022, a different judge upheld the injunction.