Court Kills Iowa Law Banning Abortions After Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Begins

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 19, 2019   |   11:21AM   |   Des Moines, IA

Iowa’s heartbeat law is dead after a state judge declared the abortion ban unconstitutional in January.

The 2018 law would have banned abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy. However, the Planned Parenthood abortion giant sued, and, in January, Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert ruled that the law violates the Iowa Constitution.

This week, pro-life Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed sorrow as she announced that the state will not appeal Huppert’s ruling, Iowa Public Radio reports.

“After this decision and because of Planned Parenthood’s legal maneuverings, I see no path to successfully appeal the district court’s decision or to get this lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court,” Reynolds said in a statement.

She said the decision was “extremely difficult” because she wants to protect unborn babies from abortion. But when courts rule against such laws, state taxpayers often are forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees, and no unborn babies lives are saved.

“Rather than be distracted by a losing legal battle, now is the time to renew our focus on changing hearts and minds and to seek other ways to advance the cause of protecting the unborn in Iowa and around the nation. I’m proud to lead the most pro-life state in the country and remain firm in my belief that all human life is precious,” Reynolds said, CNN reports.

One possible strategy that pro-life lawmakers are considering is a state constitutional amendment, according to Iowa Public Radio. Huppert’s ruling against the heartbeat law was based on an Iowa Supreme Court decision that claimed abortion is a fundamental right in the state constitution. These types of rulings by activist judges often are used to strike down even moderate abortion regulations and restrictions.

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Tennessee and West Virginia recently passed state constitutional amendments to overturn similar rulings that prevented them from passing pro-life laws.

Planned Parenthood sued Iowa in 2018 after calling the pro-life legislation “gross” and “dangerous.” The American Civil Liberties Union and the Emma Goldman Clinic, an abortion facility in Iowa City, also are involved in the lawsuit.

In a statement Monday, the ACLU of Iowa celebrated the court’s ruling: “We’re glad that politicians are recognizing what we have known all along—that the Iowa Constitution has strong protections for women’s rights, including abortion access, and that attempts to seriously erode those rights will be struck down.”

Iowa lawmakers expected a legal challenge when they passed the law last 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.”

In his ruling, Huppert acknowledged that an unborn baby does have a heartbeat. However, he said the law still is unconstitutional because it violates “both the due process and equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution.”

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.

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.”

There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider an abortion ban, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain – especially after Chief Justice John Roberts recently sided with the liberal justices on an abortion case.