sandy salmon
John Pemble / IPR

An Iowa House committee Thursday advanced what could become the strictest abortion law in the nation ahead of a legislative deadline.

It would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That provision is attached to a bill that puts limits on the donation and use of fetal tissue.

Democratic lawmakers accused Republicans of being willing to risk women’s lives to make an ideological point.

Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa House Republicans are reviving a proposed ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, by adding it as an amendment to another bill that would put limits on the donation and use of fetal tissue in Iowa.

At a subcommittee meeting convened Wednesday to consider the fetal tissue bill, conversation turned mostly to the amendment. It would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks gestation.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill to protect doctors who do not provide patients with diagnostic information that could prompt some to seek an abortion has advanced in the Iowa House.

House Republicans are focusing on the so-called wrongful birth bill as a pro-life initiative this year. 

“It’s something the caucus would like to address,” said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer.  

Under the bill, a woman would not be able to sue a doctor for withholding information about fetal abnormalities.  

alice clapman
Michael Zamora / The Des Moines Register

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit over a state-mandated, three-day waiting period for women seeking abortions.

fetal heartbeat subcommittee
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Updated Monday, Feb. 12, 2018:

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a fetal heartbeat abortion bill Monday, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against it. The bill can now be taken up for a vote by the full Iowa Senate.  

Original post from Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018:

A fetal heartbeat bill that would effectively ban almost all abortions advanced in the Iowa Senate Thursday after an hour of public testimony from people on both sides of the issue.

John Pemble/IPR

The head of the Iowa Department of Human Services Wednesday admitted problems with Iowa’s new family planning program that takes the place of Planned Parenthood clinics around the state.      

After lawmakers said no state money should go to clinics that perform abortions, the state is redirecting funds to other clinics for subsidized birth control.      

Director Jerry Foxhoven took questions about the program in an appearance before the Senate Human Resources Committee.  

Photo by John Pemble

This week, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that enforcement of a new Iowa law requiring a three-day waiting period for an abortion will remain on hold.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with law professor Todd Pettys, H. Blair & Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa, about what the court is considering.

He says that one of the issues before the Iowa Supreme Court is the question of whether the Iowa Constitution provides more protection for women than the U.S. Constitution.

Joyce Russell/IPR

State officials will be keeping a close watch over a new state-run family planning program under an initiative unveiled at a statehouse committee this week.  

The Department of Human Services will be gathering data to determine how services are affected now that Planned Parenthood clinics aren’t included.    

The new state program provides family planning services including contraception at clinics around the state, but only those that don’t offer abortions.  

Sarah Boden/IPR File

A study looking at the safety of telemedicine abortions in Iowa finds the complication rate is statistically identical when compared to in-person medication abortions.

Telemed abortions are medical abortions, meaning medication is used to induce miscarriages. Only instead of meeting in-person, a woman obtains that medication during a teleconference with her doctor.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Recently, four Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa ended operations. This comes after the Republican-controlled state legislature blocked federal funding to the organization as a way to restrict abortion access. But in addition to abortions, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provides birth control, STD testing and cancer screenings.

To see if these closings have affected healthcare access in the state, I visited southeast Iowa, where two of the four clinics that recently closed were located.

Sarah Boden/IPR File

The bench trial in the case questioning the constitutionality of new abortion restrictions in Iowa ended yesterday, but it will be more than a month before the district court rules.

The case challenges a new law that requires a woman have an ultrasound three days before terminating her pregnancy. This rule not only mandates a delay, but also forces a woman to attend two separate medical appointments.

WIKICOMMONS / Iowahwyman

A nationally recognized gynecologist testified Tuesday at Polk County District Court. Dr. Dan Grossman of California is an expert witness in a trial that questions the constitutionality of new abortion restrictions.

Iowa’s new law requires a woman to have an ultrasound three days before an abortion. Grossman told the court, in some cases, he believes this requirement is "cruel" and "unacceptable."

Sarah Boden/IPR File

The medical director of Iowa’s largest abortion provider took the witness stand today in Polk County District Court. Dr. Jill Meadows of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa are suing the state, saying that new restrictions on abortion create an undue burden for women.

There’s currently an injunction on the new law which requires a woman to have an ultrasound three days before terminating her pregnancy. Meadows testified this will increase costs for patients because now women would be billed for two medical visits instead of one.

Sarah Boden/IPR File

A trial begins at the Polk County Courthouse this morning that questions the constitutionality of Iowa's three-day waiting period for abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland says this new law creates an undue burden, especially for rural and low-income women.

Waiting periods before abortions are legal. What's not clear is how long the delay can be before it becomes unconstitutional. 

Iowa's law requires a woman not only to wait three days, but also to obtain an ultrasound 72-hours before her abortion. This means patients must attend two separate medical visits. 

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Four of Iowa’s 12 Planned Parenthood clinics are ending operations today. This is a result of state Republican lawmakers successfully blocking federal funding to medical providers that perform abortions.

No public dollars are used to pay for abortions in Iowa. The funding went to health care services like IUD insertions and cancer screenings. But anti-abortion legislators say any public funding to Planned Parenthood indirectly supports abortion.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Supreme Court has extended a temporary injunction that suspends part of a new law that mandates a three-day waiting period before an abortion.  

When Planned Parenthood and the ACLU first asked for the injunction last week, they argued that the Iowa Department of Public Health had not yet developed certain materials which the new law mandates women be provided before having an abortion. The information includes content on adoption and risk factors associated with abortion.


The Iowa Supreme Court has issued a temporary injunction that immediately blocks a provision of a newly signed law that mandates a three-day waiting period between two appointments before having an abortion.

After a lower court denied a request for an injunction on Thursday afternoon, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa successfully appealed to the state's high court. The injunction was granted Friday morning, a couple hours after Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law.

Pool photo via KCCI-TV

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is appealing to the Iowa Supreme Court for an injunction to stop new abortion restrictions from going into effect tomorrow morning. At about 8:30, upon Gov. Terry Branstad’s signature, a new law will be enacted that mandates a 72-hour waiting period between two appointments before a woman receives an abortion.


Tomorrow afternoon, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa are asking a judge for an emergency injunction to stop a law that requires women wait 72-hour before receiving an abortion. The law is slated to go into effect Friday morning, unless the Polk County District Court intervenes.

The plaintiffs argue the law violates women's equal protection rights by trying to stop them from having abortions. They also argue the law is unconstitutional, as it singles out the procedure by objecting it onerous restrictions. 

The abortion-access advocacy organization NARAL Pro-Choice America is urging Gov. Terry Branstad to veto legislation it says threatens women's health and plays politics with women's lives.

Senate File 471 requires women to wait three days before receiving an abortion and have an ultrasound before the procedure. It also bans abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. 

"There is still time for the governor to do the right thing," says NARAL's James Owens. "This bill introduced ideology into the doctor’s room and tries to shame women away from accessing basic healthcare." 

Iowa General Assembly

Two of Governor Branstad’s re-appointments to the Iowa Board of Medicine failed to get the votes needed for confirmation in the Iowa Senate last night, going down to defeat over the issue of abortion.  

In 2013 Board Chair Diane Clark, a public member from Lake Mills, and Dr. Hamed Tewfik, a physician from Iowa City,  voted to stop Planned Parenthood’s telemed abortion program, which allows women to obtain medical abortions from remote locations without a physician present.  

Senator Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines) led the opposition to the appointees.

Sarah Boden/IPR

A Republican-dominated panel at the statehouse last night approved a human services budget that changes how family planning programs are paid for across the state.  

The bill will eliminate state funding that used to go to clinics that also perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood.  

Up to now, the state spent just under half a million dollars, or $482,000,  for family planning services including birth control and pregnancy tests.  

The rest came from the federal government.

Joyce Russell/IPR

After more than six hours of sometimes bitter debate extending over two days the Iowa House last night approved a bill which, if it becomes law, would include the most extensive abortion restrictions ever approved in Iowa.   

The bill bans abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, and enacts a 72 hour waiting period for all abortions.   

House Republicans could not reach consensus on a bill banning all abortions, or another banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is throwing his full support behind anti-abortion legislation making its way through the Republican-controlled legislature, saying the new GOP majority in the Iowa Senate is making it possible.     

Branstad backs a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy that has passed the Iowa Senate and is now awaiting a vote in the full House.   

House Republicans last week introduced a measure to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, or roughly 5 to 6 weeks into pregnancy, before some women would know they are pregnant.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A controversial proposal to ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat has been removed from the GOP agenda in the Iowa House, roughly 24 hours after it was introduced.   

Republicans will now return their attention to a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  

“This is the legislation we have consensus on,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Joel Fry (R-Osceola).   “We’ve been working over the last few hours trying to get consensus within our caucus.”

John Pemble/IPR

Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House have begun a second attempt to ban abortion in the state after the 20th week of pregnancy.     

The GOP caucus in the House is strongly anti-abortion, but there are divisions about how far an abortion restriction should go.   

Earlier the House Human Resources committee failed to pass the 20-week ban.   

Many members had wanted to go further and outlaw abortion altogether.   

Now a 20-week ban has come over from the Senate, with an exception for fetal anomalies.  

Sarah Boden/IPR

The Iowa House Human Resources Committee will likely soon vote on a bill from the state Senate that takes away public family planning money from organizations that provide abortions. The legislation most affects 12 Planned Parenthood clinics.  

No state or federal dollars pay for abortion services. But people who want to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood argue that giving any public funding to these clinics still indirectly promotes abortion.

Laura Limmex of Ankeny says she opposes abortion, after having a horrible experience at age 16.


Legislation that bans the transfer or receipt of fetal tissues has passed out of subcommittee in the Iowa state Senate. Federal law already makes it illegal to sell fetal tissues for profit, but supporters of the bill say they don’t want aborted fetuses used in research.  

Sarah Boden/IPR

A bill taking away federal family planning funding from organizations that provide abortions in Iowa has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by an eight-to-five vote along party lines.  The legislation turns down a total of $2.9 million federal dollars received via the Iowa Family Planning Network (IFPN) waiver. 

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Iowa's largest abortion provider, stands to lose roughly $1 million in funding. Based on tax documents, this is about five percent of the organization's annual revenue. 

Sarah Boden/IPR

Iowa’s Republican lawmakers are a step closer to defunding the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. A bill to instead fund organizations that don’t provide abortion services passed out of a state senate subcommittee today.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland supporters crammed into the meeting to voice their objection to the legislation. The hallway behind the senate chamber held those who couldn’t fit into the hearing room, with their chants of "Women's Rights! Women's Rights" carrying into the room.