Iowa judge upholds block on heartbeat law as governor plans state Supreme Court appeal

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A judge has upheld a three-year-old court decision blocking a pro-life law from taking effect in Iowa.

In 2018, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law S.F. 359, a heartbeat bill that was aimed at protecting preborn children from abortion once their heartbeat can be detected. This is usually at about six weeks, though the heart first begins beating between 16 and 21 days post-fertilization. However, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit challenging the law, and the law was permanently blocked in 2019 by Judge Michael Huppert, who based his ruling on both the existence of Roe v. Wade and a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that claimed abortion is a fundamental right under the state Constitution.

That state Supreme Court ruling made it difficult for any pro-life laws to be passed in the state until June of this year, when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned its previous decision, ruling the state constitution does not contain a right to abortion.

Once Roe v. Wade was overturned, Governor Reynolds filed a motion asking the original district court to lift its injunction. Reynolds filed the motion, as the state’s attorney general refuses to do so due to his pro-abortion stance.

“As the Iowa and US Supreme Courts have made clear, there is no fundamental right to an abortion,” said Reynolds. “The decision of the people’s representatives to protect life should be honored, and I believe the court will ultimately do so. As long as I’m Governor, I will continue to fight for the sanctity of life and for the unborn.”

Judge Celene Gogerty claimed she is unsure that the district court has the authority to lift the injunction, but that even if it does, “the state has failed to show that there has been a substantial change in the law under the Iowa Constitution.” She also wrote that the law places an undue burden on women. However, “undue burden” was the standard under Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a previous Supreme Court decision which was also overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

“I’m very disappointed in the ruling filed today by the district court, but regardless of the outcome, this case was always going to the Iowa Supreme Court,” said Reynolds. “We will appeal this decision immediately.”

Preborn children are currently protected from induced abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy in Iowa. After 20 weeks, abortion is restricted except when the mother’s health is at risk, though induced abortion is never medically necessary.

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