Dec 2, 2021 - News

How SCOTUS' ruling on Mississippi abortion case would impact Iowa

Data: Myers Abortion Facility Database on OSF; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios
Data: Myers Abortion Facility Database on OSF; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

Abortion will remain legal in Iowa if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, but access to nearby abortion clinics may become more difficult for western Iowans.

Driving the news: The nation's high court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case involving a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to weaken abortion rights, but it remains unclear whether a majority of the justices will overturn the 1973 ruling, setting a precedent for the constitutional right to abortion entirely, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.

The big picture: Without Roe, abortion laws and access would vary by state.

  • The procedure would immediately become illegal in 12 states, including neighboring South Dakota. More would likely pass or revive restrictions in the wake of a ruling, like Nebraska.
  • A clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, could immediately close, as well as clinics in Nebraska's Omaha and Bellevue, which are close to Iowa's western border.

Zoom in: Iowa is not one of the 15 states that have passed laws explicitly legalizing abortion. The procedure is protected under a 2018 state Supreme Court ruling that struck down a law requiring a 72-hour abortion waiting period.

  • That ruling establishes a constitutional right to abortion in Iowa that's viewed as even stronger than the federal protections.

What they're saying: Groups that oppose abortion rights acknowledge the hurdle the precedent creates, but they're hopeful it'll be reversed when the Iowa Supreme Court considers a 2020 law requiring a 24-hour abortion waiting period in coming months.

  • Republican lawmakers are also pushing for a constitutional amendment that says abortions are not protected by the Iowa Constitution. That would require majority approval in the 2023-24 session, as well as a public referendum.

Yes, but: Supporters of abortion access say they worry that if a new Supreme Court ruling or constitutional amendment happens, lawmakers will get "unchecked" ability to restrict abortions, which will disproportionately hurt low-income Iowans, Iowa Public Radio reports.

  • "If that happens, it really gives lawmakers pretty much unchecked access to regulate and restrict abortion," Sheena Dooley of Planned Parenthood North Central States told IPR.

Between the lines: Since her tenure, Gov. Kim Reynolds has appointed four of the seven state Supreme Court justices.

What’s next: The Supreme Court is scheduled to release a decision this summer.


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