Iowans closely divided on abortion issue


Ian Steenhoek/Iowa State Daily

Planned Parenthood marches with their banner at the Capital City Pride Parade.

Olivia Nuckles

Iowans are closely divided when it comes to the issue of abortion.

A Pew survey found that 52 percent of Iowans support abortion’s legality in “all/most” cases, while 46 percent said it should be illegal in “all/most” cases.

Individuals probably know their own personal views on abortion, but the view on the issue of each state as a whole can vary. In Iowa, the battle lines are the same on the issue.

Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, said pro-choice advocates frame the issue as a legal healthcare procedure women can opt into, and that a woman’s choice is nobody’s business. Meanwhile, the other side frames abortion as “murder.”

“Abortion is one of the huge social cleavages of our time, and there is very little middle ground on this issue given on how advocates frame the issue,” Kedrowski said.

The Iowa Supreme Court voted to reject a 72-hour mandatory waiting period for abortions signed into law in 2017 by then-Gov. Terry Branstad, ruling it unconstitutional.

Attorneys arguing the case for the state said at the time that the waiting period would give women more time to make a decision on choosing whether to have an abortion, which could lead to more women deciding against an abortion.

Gov. Kim Reynolds defended the waiting period. 

“I don’t think it is unreasonable to require 72 hours for someone to weigh their options and the important decision they are about to make,” Reynolds said at the time.

The fight over abortion rights in Iowa is now between Reynolds and the state legislature — the majority of which is pro-life on one side, and the Iowa Supreme Court which has generally ruled on the side of pro-choice litigants on the other.

Reynolds has said she would support amending the Iowa Constitution to add language noting the state does not offer a constitutional right to abortion, or funding for one.

This has been a long standing issue between the Supreme Court and Republican governments, with little in the way of movement towards a definitive conclusion.

“What they are waiting for is a case and standing,” Kedrowski said. “What the Supreme Court usually looks for in a case that is appealed to the court is some area of disagreement between different circuits.” 

Though abortion still remains a major issue in voter’s opinion — with a recent YouGov poll finding 72 percent of Americans say it is an important issue and only 28 percent say it is not an important issue — Iowa has seen a record low of annual abortion rates since 2003.

Preliminary data from the Iowa Department of Public Health found there were 2,849 abortions in 2018 — the twelfth year in a row abortion rates have declined.