Most abortions will soon be illegal in Iowa. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Iowa Constitution does not provide special protection for abortion rights and that the government has a rational basis for requiring most pregnancies to continue after about six weeks following a person’s last menstrual period.

A law that makes abortion illegal once fetal cardiac activity is detected, passed in 2023, means Iowa will join 16 other states with the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The decision was 4 to 3.

Under Iowa court rules, it will be at least 21 days before the ruling formally takes effect. Planned Parenthood noted in a news release that abortions allowed under current law will remain legal during that time.

Ruling could affect Iowa’s workforce

Both advocates and opponents of abortion access are denouncing or celebrating the ruling from a moral or political perspective, but today’s decision also could affect Iowa women, especially those with lower incomes, and how they participate in the workforce.

“We do have a lot of evidence on the effects of abortion policy,” said Caitlin Knowles Myers, a professor of economics at Middlebury College who was interviewed by the Business Record on Thursday. Going back to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, she said, economists have been able to determine that legal abortion made girls and women “much more likely to finish high school, go to college, finish college, have higher-earning jobs and avoid poverty.”

In the past two years, the Turnaway study showed that women who are denied abortions go on to have adverse events on their credit reports far more often than women who can access abortion.

Iowa’s ban will have the greatest effect on women without means, Knowles Myers said: “A great number of people who are Iowa residents who want abortions are still going to get them; they are going to drive to other states where abortion remains legally available, or they’re going to mail-order abortion medication and have it shipped to their houses and manage an abortion in that way.”

While the Iowa law includes exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest and for certain medical emergencies, Knowles Myers said that developments in states that banned abortion earlier raise concerns about cases such as ectopic pregnancies. Those do not result in a live birth, but lawyers and doctors in Texas, Idaho and other states have said they sometimes delay providing abortion care to be sure they don’t run afoul of laws permitting the procedure only if the woman’s life is threatened.

Judkins: Support programs can help Iowa women and girls
Iowa has taken some steps to make more resources available for women and girls who can no longer choose abortion in the state. The More Options for Maternal Support program, also known as the MOMS program, created in 2022 and modified earlier this year, provides grants to agencies that promote healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Those agencies are not permitted to primarily promote abortion.

Kristi Judkins, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, said in an interview with the Business Record on June 13, that she’s seen estimates that the law could result in 2,000 fewer abortions each year.

Judkins said that Iowa has more than 50 pregnancy resource centers, and that the support network for women and girls is being made more robust. “Obviously, they want to support life, but they are going to do it in a way that’s compassionate and respectful,” she said. More details are at, Judkins said.

Knowles Myers, the economist, agreed that “programs that provide support to low-income families [make] it financially more viable.” However, she said that giving a new parent some diapers and a car seat only goes so far, and that what is really needed are long-term resources like housing stability, job security and affordable child care.

“A lot of low-income working mothers are shift workers, and they have really unpredictable job schedules and a really hard time taking leave [when children are sick]. Is a crisis pregnancy center going to address labor policy? I don’t think so.”

She said businesses can help support parents by providing consistent work schedules that are given with plenty of heads-up.

Reynolds addresses IVF question
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday released a prepared statement that addressed parenthood and in vitro fertilization: “We will continue to develop policies that encourage strong families, which includes promoting adoption and protecting in vitro fertilization (IVF). Families are the cornerstone of society, and it’s what will keep the foundation of our state and country strong for generations to come.”

Knowles Myers, the economist, testified at a congressional hearing earlier this year at which Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said that he didn’t think it was appropriate to examine abortion access through an economic lens. “I took Sen. Grassley’s comment in good faith,” she said. “If you view [abortion], as I believe Sen. Grassley does, as fundamentally a question about what he sees as human life, then I took him as saying there’s nothing you could say with an economic argument that would change that.

“And I think that’s OK. … As an economist, I’m not there to opine on ethics or when life begins. But what I do think we should be able to do, and where I do think everybody should be open to having a conversation and listening, is we should be able to talk about the facts, the scientific evidence, and the facts are that access to abortion is of fundamental economic importance to women and families. And that if you deny access to abortion, you will see economic consequences, particularly for poor, vulnerable families.”

Other responses
Iowa state Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, a Democrat from Windsor Heights, said on a conference call organized by Planned Parenthood on Monday that the University of Iowa’s training program for obstetricians and gynecologists is in jeopardy because prospective doctors won’t be able to practice all the necessary services. University officials declined to comment earlier this month but passed the Business Record’s request on to an Iowa Board of Regents spokesperson, who said he would provide the Business Record with a statement after the Iowa Supreme Court announced its decision.

Leah Vanden Bosch, development and outreach director for Iowa Abortion Access Fund, said on Monday that her group will continue assisting women with accessing abortions.