By Dave Andrusko
As we reported late yesterday, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the Emma Goldman Clinic, and the ACLU of Iowa have challenged Iowa’s Heartbeat Bill even before pro-life Governor Kim Reynold signed it into law. Reynolds ”intends to sign the new bill into law on Friday at the Family Leadership Summit, an annual gathering of conservative evangelicals,” the Des Moines Register reported.
The 2018 law was designed to protect unborn babies from abortion after the heartbeat has been detected, typically around the sixth week. The bill includes very limited exceptions: to preserve the life of the mother and for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
The litigants are “asking a Polk County District judge [Judge Joseph Seidlin] to temporarily block it from taking effect and then hear arguments to determine whether the law is constitutional,” according to Katie Akin and Stephen Gruber-Miller.
The lawsuit argues “When the act goes into effect, it will prohibit the vast majority of Iowans from accessing abortion. The ban will irreparably harm petitioners and their patients, and there is no adequate legal remedy.”
Judge Seidlin will hear arguments Friday about whether to issue a temporary injunction, a hearing that is scheduled to begin 45 minutes before Gov. Reynolds signs the bill.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Gov. Reynold said, “The Iowa Supreme Court questioned whether this Legislature would pass the same law they did in 2018, and today they have a clear answer. The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives cannot be ignored any longer, and justice for the unborn should not be delayed.”
Attorney General Brenna Bird would be responsible for defending the Heartbeat Law in court. She pledged a vigorous defense.
“No right is more valuable than the right to life. By once again passing a law to protect the unborn, Iowa has demonstrated its commitment to supporting life at all stages,” Bird said in a Wednesday email. “As attorney general, I will do my duty to defend the heartbeat law and protect the right to life in court.”
Reynolds signed a nearly identical law in 2018, and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa challenged it in court.
Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert ruled in 2019 that the law violated the Iowa Constitution, striking it down permanently. He cited a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that declared women had a “fundamental right” to abortion under the state constitution.
However, the legal landscape shifted last year: The Iowa Supreme Court in 2022 overturned its 2018 decision, finding instead that Iowa women do not have a fundamental right to abortion, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs case removed a federal “undue burden” standard.
Reynolds asked Iowa courts to reconsider the 2018 law.