Iowa Republicans to pursue 6-week abortion ban in special session beginning Tuesday

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature will seek to enact an abortion ban after about six weeks of pregnancy in a rare special session that begins Tuesday, according to a released bill. Friday.

The proposed measure is similar to a 2018 law that a deadlocked state Supreme Court refused to reinstate last month, prompting Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to call the special session. Abortion is currently legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill, like the 2018 law, would ban abortions once heart activity can be detected, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.

A district court ruled the law unconstitutional in 2019, given rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the state’s highest court that affirmed a woman’s fundamental constitutional right to an abortion. Both bodies reversed those rulings last year, so Reynolds sought to reinstate the 2018 law.

The current bill, which can be amended before a vote, includes exceptions for medical emergencies, rape, incest and fetal abnormalities.

Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest abortion provider, announced plans to demonstrate outside the Iowa Capitol on Tuesday. He has already filed lawsuits challenging state abortion restrictions.

The bill is unlikely to encounter major hurdles in the Legislative Assembly. Most Republican-led states have dramatically reduced abortion access in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. Fourteen states have bans with limited exceptions and one state, Georgia, bans abortion after detection of heart activity. Several other states have similar restrictions that are pending court rulings.

Any restrictions on coming out of the Iowa special session will likely be challenged in court.

The issue in the Iowa Supreme Court that mandate was largely procedural, not on the merits of the law. Last year’s ruling stated that the “excessive demand test” for abortion law remains in effect unless that legal standard is further challenged, which the court has not addressed since. Excessive demand is an intermediate level of control that requires that laws do not create a significant barrier to abortion.

State attorneys have argued that the law should be analyzed using rational scrutiny, the lowest level of scrutiny for judging legal challenges.

Reynolds ordered a special session just one more year, in 2021, when lawmakers had to wait until the fall to approve the drawing of congressional and legislative districts. There had not been a special session since 2006.

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