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Iowa GOP governor calls special session with ‘sole purpose’ of passing abortion restrictions

<i>Charlie Neibergall/AP</i><br/>Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her inaugural address
Charlie Neibergall/AP
Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her inaugural address

By Jack Forrest, CNN

(CNN) — Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday that she will convene a special legislative session next week for the sole task of passing abortion restrictions.

The governor’s call for lawmakers to return comes weeks after Iowa’s Supreme Court declined to lift a block on the state’s 6-week abortion ban, deadlocking in a 3-3 vote whether to overturn a lower court decision that deemed the 2018 law unconstitutional.

The special session will convene next Tuesday “with the sole purpose of enacting legislation that addresses abortion and protects unborn lives,” according to a news release from Reynolds’ office.

Reynolds said the state Supreme Court’s order, which left abortion in Iowa legal up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy, “disregards the will of Iowa voters and lawmakers who will not rest until the unborn are protected by law.”

The 2018 “fetal heartbeat” law sought to prohibit doctors from performing an abortion once early cardiac activity is detected, commonly as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Iowa Justice Thomas Waterman, who voted to leave the block in place, explained in the court’s decision that lifting the block would be akin to bypassing the state legislature, which is now composed of different lawmakers.

“When the statute was enacted in 2018, it had no chance of taking effect,” Waterman wrote, noting that its supporters anticipated a legal challenge at a time when federal protections for abortion rights remained in effect.

“To put it politely, the legislature was enacting a hypothetical law,” adding that “uncertainty exists about whether a fetal heartbeat bill would be passed today.”

Just over a year after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, at least 14 states have now banned or severely restricted access to the procedure, and six have set gestational limits. Most recently, North Carolina’s 12-week ban took effect last week after the Republican-led General Assembly overrode a veto by the state’s Democratic governor.

Iowa Senate Democratic Leader Pam Jochum said in a news release Wednesday that Reynolds’ call for a special session was expected.

“This attack on reproductive healthcare is opposed by a large majority of Iowans,” she added. “Senate Democrats will be fighting for that majority on the Senate floor next week, and we call on every Iowan to join us.”

Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, echoed Jochum’s sentiment in a statement, and called the special session “drastic” and “power hungry.”

“A growing majority of Iowans support abortion access,” Stilwell said. “Make no mistake—we are prepared to mobilize supporters across the state to demand state legislators reject any proposed abortion ban or further restrictions on abortion care.”

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Sydney Kashiwagi, Annette Choi and Shawna Mizelle contributed to this report.

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