Iowa’s heartbeat law on hold


DES MOINES – The implementation of Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law is on hold, while a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality is resolved.

Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert granted the temporary injunction on June 1, which stops the law from going into effect. However, it does not permanently block the law, which was set to take effect July 1. The Iowa Legislature – in which Republicans hold the majority in both houses – had passed the legislation in the middle of the night May 2. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the law May 4.

“I understand, and I anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court,” Reynolds said the day she signed the bill. “However, this is bigger than just a law; this is about life. I am not going to back down from who I am or what I believe in.”

Bishop R. Walker Nickless joined the other three Iowa bishops in expressing his support that the Iowa legislature acted in Senate File 359 to also stop any trafficking in fetal body parts following an abortion.

“We all support the life-affirming intent of the provision to stop abortions after a heartbeat can be detected,” he said in a statement issued through the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC), the public policy arm of the Iowa bishops. “We support the life-giving intent of the provisions in the bill and we want to do everything we can to support that.”

The bishop added that a bill banning abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat “affirms the life-giving intent” of the state’s pro-life efforts.

“Hopefully, this is the right time to pass legislation that could pose a challenge to Roe v. Wade,” he said, referring to the 1973 landmark case which stated women have a constitutional right to abortion.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic filed the suit, arguing the law violates a woman’s due-process rights. The plaintiffs are being represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

ICC Executive Director Tom Chapman had anticipated a lawsuit would be filed to stop the law.

“However, an interesting aspect of this is that Tom Miller, the state attorney general, refuses to defend the law because it ‘would undermine rights and protections for women,’” he pointed out. “So, he is being allowed to exercise his conscience and best judgment – however objectively flawed.”

Chapman expressed his pleasure that lawyers from the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm based in Chicago, are handling the defense.

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