Iowans face more threats to their reproductive freedom now than at any time in the past 50 years.
After Governor Kim Reynolds signs House File 732 on July 14, restrictions that would prohibit an estimated 98 percent of abortions will go into effect immediately. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the Emma Goldman Clinic, and the ACLU of Iowa have already filed a lawsuit, but there is no guarantee courts will block the law temporarily or permanently, once the case reaches the Iowa Supreme Court.
During a large rally at the capitol on July 11, many pro-choice advocates chanted “Vote them out!” State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott recalled that being present when Iowa Republicans approved a near-total abortion ban in 2018 inspired her to run for office. Organizing and volunteering for candidates who will defend reproductive rights will clearly be an essential task. And if Iowa Republican lawmakers put a constitutional amendment about abortion on the ballot next year, we’ll need all hands on deck to defeat it.
That said, you don’t need to wait until 2024 to help others avoid being forced to continue a pregnancy. So I’m updating this post with some concrete steps people can take today—or any day—to preserve abortion access in Iowa.
Donate to an abortion fund.
The Iowa Abortion Access Fund provides financial assistance to Iowans or residents of the Quad Cities who are seeking an abortion. The fund is not need-based. Anyone who asks for help receives help.
According to an email the fund sent to supporters in June, the starting cost of a medication abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic is $730. Some procedures can cost thousands of dollars.
Donations surged around the time the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, which allowed the Iowa Abortion Access Fund to increase its standard grant from $130 to $700 per person. The fund “works directly with clinics to ensure funding is used as intended—to provide abortion to an Iowa or Quad Cities resident in need.”
Abortion providers also need financial support. Planned Parenthood North Central States, the affiliate that includes Iowa, and the Emma Goldman Clinic will continue to provide abortion services, either as they do currently (if courts enjoin the new abortion ban) or in compliance with Iowa law (if the state is allowed to enforce the ban). Leaders of those organizations told reporters on July 10 that their staff will assist patients in finding care out of state if it’s not possible to terminate the pregnancy at an Iowa clinic.
On a related note:
Obtain supplies for yourself or someone who may become pregnant.
As more states pass laws banning abortion at all but the earliest stages of pregnancy, it has become more important to prevent unwanted pregnancies, or detect them as soon as possible.
The Family Planning Council of Iowa, a statewide nonprofit, launched a Free Reproductive Health Kits for Iowans initiative in June. The kits contain “two doses of emergency contraception (EC, or the morning-after pill), condoms, lube, and a reproductive health guide to help Iowans navigate sexual and reproductive health decisions.”
Anyone can request a kit through the Family Planning Council’s website. (The organization also accepts donations to help cover the costs.) Alternatively, Iowans of any age can pick up a free reproductive health kit, no questions asked, at any of the following locations:
- Community Health Care – Edgerton Clinic in Davenport
- Crescent Community Health Center in Dubuque
- Great River Family Planning of Southeast Iowa in Burlington
- Planned Parenthood locations in Des Moines, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, and Iowa City
- Primary Health Care in Ames and Marshalltown
- Siouxland Community Health Center in Sioux City
- Trinity Muscatine Public Health in Muscatine
- Women’s Health & Family Services in Clinton and Maquoketa
The My IA Condoms website also provides safer sex supplies for free.
Dr. Sarah Traxler, medical director for Planned Parenthood North Central States, confirmed during the July 10 news conference that even if Republicans are able to enforce the new law, Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa will be able to provide abortions for patients who present before embryonic cardiac activity can be detected. That often happens around six weeks after the last menstrual period.
Robin Marty, author of the New Handbook for a Post-Roe America and an employee of a women’s health center in Alabama, recommends ordering bulk pregnancy tests for anyone “living in a state where you would need to know immediately” if you were pregnant. She noted that tests with only the strips (without plastic holders) are affordable online. This week, I found several options for packages of 30 or 50 pregnancy test strips for prices ranging from $8 to $16.
Emergency contraceptives, often known as “Plan B,” are also valuable. But Marty discourages people from stockpiling those if they have no way of distributing them. Doing that could lead to supply shortages for those with an urgent need. She recommends that people who could become pregnant keep one emergency contraception package for themselves and possibly a second one, in case a friend needs it.
Cautionary note: Plan B may not be effective for people weighing more than about 155 pounds.
While some funds offer medication abortion supplies, Marty cautioned during an Access podcast episode from 2021 that there is no guarantee those will arrive quickly after pregnant people order them. (Mifepristone is most effective when used up to ten weeks gestation.)
Online safety is essential for anyone seeking out abortion-related resources, and Marty discusses that at length in the second edition of her handbook.
Volunteer with reproductive freedom advocates.
You don’t need to have spare cash to make a meaningful contribution. The ACLU of Iowa is building a network of political volunteers focused on protecting reproductive freedom in Iowa. You can sign up here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you prefer to avoid the political arena, there are many other ways to help, such as assembling the Family Planning Council of Iowa’s reproductive health kits.
Speaking to The Cut last year, Oriaku Njoku, the co-founder and executive director of Access Reproductive Care–Southeast in Atlanta, suggested contacting a local abortion fund or provider. In addition to obvious ways of volunteering like serving as a clinic escort, you may have other useful skills, like being able to offer IT support or assistance with event planning or media outreach.
Be vocal about supporting abortion rights.
A clear majority of Iowans think abortion should be mostly or always legal, but not everyone feels comfortable talking about it in public.
Speaking to reporters last year, after it became clear the U.S. Supreme Court was going to overturn Roe, Iowa Abortion Access Fund board member Frieda Bequeaith emphasized the value of standing up for abortion in ways besides voting. She urged like-minded people to talk about the issue with co-workers, family, and friends.
Let people know that you are a safe person to talk to it about, that you would help provide child care, provide money, transportation, that you would cover a shift for them. Let them know that you would support them through that.
Posting about reproductive rights on social media, or sharing posts from others, is another easy way to let your friends know the issue matters to you.
It’s also important to be supportive of people you care about who have had an abortion or are planning to terminate a pregnancy.
Another way to express your views is to attend a rally or demonstration. This week’s large turnout at the state capitol didn’t change how Republicans voted, but it reminded politicians and the public that many Iowans vehemently oppose abortion bans. Aside from making your voice heard, I’ve often heard from activists that this kind of event made them feel less alone while living in a red state.
Marty’s The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America contains tips for activists who may want to counter an anti-abortion protest or do civil disobedience in the service of reproductive rights.
Top image: April Clark, an abortion nurse and Iowa Abortion Access Fund board member, speaks during a July 11 rally at the state capitol. Photo courtesy of the Iowa Abortion Access Fund, published with permission.