Judge Blocks Iowa Law Banning All Abortions After an Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Begins

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 1, 2018   |   1:10PM   |   Des Moines, IA

An Iowa judge temporarily blocked a state law Friday that would ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

Planned Parenthood sued to overturn the law in May after calling the pro-life legislation “gross” and “dangerous.”

On Friday, Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert granted the abortion group’s request to block enforcement of the law until a court rules on its constitutionality, The Gazette reports. Lawyers from the pro-life Thomas More Society who are representing the state did not object to the temporary block, the report states.

If enforced, the law would require abortion practitioners to test for the unborn baby’s heartbeat before performing an abortion. If a heartbeat is detected, the abortion would be prohibited except in cases of medical emergency, rape, incest or fetal abnormalities deemed to be “incompatible” with life.

Because an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable by about six weeks of pregnancy, the law would prohibit almost all abortions in Iowa. It is the earliest abortion ban in the United States.

Here’s more from the Des Moines Register:

Planned Parenthood is challenging the law under the Iowa Constitution, which it says also protects abortion rights. Filing the lawsuit in state court could thwart the conservative goal of taking a legal challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court with the hope of overturning [Roe v. Wade]. The U.S. Supreme Court does not get to review state supreme court decisions concerning state constitutional questions.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Emma Goldman Clinic, an abortion facility in Iowa City, also are involved in the lawsuit.

Iowa lawmakers expected a legal challenge when they passed the law this spring. Previously, pro-life state Rep. Shannon Lundgren, a Republican, admitted that the legislation likely would expose the state to a legal challenge, KMA Radio News reports.

“The science and technology have significantly advanced since 1973,” Lundgren said. “It is time for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue of life. It has taken decades for the science to catch up with what many have believed all along, that she’s a baby.”

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The goal of the legislation is to prevent the deaths of thousands of unborn babies every year. However, even some pro-life advocates admit that the success of the legislation is uncertain. While the rationale behind the law is noble, a number of pro-life leaders recognize that, for the present, such laws may create unintended consequences that could hamper the pro-life cause.

How the case will fare in Iowa state courts remains to be seen, but the likelihood of it being upheld by the current U.S. Supreme Court is extremely unlikely.

Because of the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts, a law to prohibit abortions in the first trimester most likely would not survive a court challenge. President Donald Trump promised to appoint pro-life justices to the courts, but he would have to appoint at least one more Supreme Court judge before the Iowa legislation would have a chance of being upheld.

And right now, pro-abortion Democrats in the U.S. Senate are holding up a number of conservative judicial nominees chosen by President Donald Trump.

North Dakota and Arkansas passed heartbeat bills several years ago, but federal courts struck down both laws.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about its ruling on the six-week ban: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”

When courts rule against such laws, state taxpayers often are forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.