Iowa Republicans Ram Through Six-Week Abortion Ban In One-Day Special Session

SIOUX CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 03: Governor Kim Reynolds (R-IA) waves to the crowd (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
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Iowa Republicans, following Gov. Kim Reynolds’ (R) lead, passed a six-week abortion ban late Tuesday night after completing the entire legislative process in a one-day special session. 

Reynolds had called for the special session after the Iowa Supreme Court deadlocked on a very similar six-week ban last month, permanently blocking it. 

Every Democrat in both chambers — joined by a handful of Republicans — opposed the ban. 

Clashes between anti-abortion and abortion-rights protesters in the state capitol complex got so heated at times that state troopers had to intervene.  

The ban includes a few very narrow exceptions: if the pregnancy is a result of a rape that has been reported to law enforcement or a health official within 45 days, if it’s a result of incest that has been reported to the same entities within 140 days, if there’s an incomplete miscarriage, if there’s a fetal abnormality “that in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment is incompatible with life” or if the woman’s life is “endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury.” 

Physicians’ attempts to comply with these kinds of bans in real time have already left women to suffer, as they struggle to navigate the imprecise, often political language written into the legislation.  

Reynolds said she’ll sign the bill Friday, and it will go into effect immediately. 

If the bill survives inevitable legal challenges, it’ll be a drastic change in Iowa’s abortion regime. The procedure is currently legal up to 22 weeks after the last period. 

It would also be completely out of step with Iowans’ opinion of abortion. 

Per a Des Moines Register poll published in March, 61 percent of Iowans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to the 35 percent who think it should be illegal in all or most cases. Many women don’t know that they’re pregnant at six weeks, making the ban all but comprehensive. 

Tuesday’s ban makes Iowa yet another red state where the legislature has passed abortion restrictions that go much further than the majority of its constituents want. But, wielding a supermajority in the state Senate and majority in the state House, Iowa Republicans have the votes to cater to the small but vocal anti-abortion minority. 

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