The state of Iowa is fighting in court today to be able to enforce its heartbeat law, which would protect babies from abortions starting at 6 weeks when an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be heard on a sonogram.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Gov. Kim Reynolds filed a brief Thursday asking an Iowa district court to lift its 2019 injunction against enforcement of the state’s fetal heartbeat law. The law was enacted to protect innocent, unborn life by prohibiting elective abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
In the brief filed in the Iowa District Court for Polk County, ADF attorneys explain that the Iowa Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning its 2018 opinion that had found a state constitutional right to an abortion and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey have changed the law so significantly that the court should now lift its previous injunction and allow the fetal heartbeat law to take effect.
“States like Iowa can now affirm that life is a human right and ensure women have real support when faced with a pregnancy,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life. “We’re pleased to work alongside Gov. Reynolds to help defend Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law as we continue our crucial efforts promoting life-affirming laws for mothers and children.”
The brief in support of the motion to dissolve the permanent injunction was filed in the case Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds. Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law contains exceptions for medical emergencies, including threats to the mother’s life and serious risk of bodily harm, and for cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormality.
Reynolds wants the court to uphold the heartbeat abortion ban that she signed in 2018.
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“Now is the time for us to stand up and continue the fight to protect the unborn,” said Gov. Reynolds. “The Supreme Court’s historic decision reaffirms that states have the right to protect the innocent and defenseless unborn—and now it’s time for our state to do just that. As governor, I will do whatever it takes to defend the most important freedom there is: the right to life.”
Because Attorney General Tom Miller, a pro-abortion Democrat, refuses to defend the abortion ban, Reynolds asked attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom to do so.
The state high court’s recent decision in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds correctly reversed a previous decision by the court that had found a right to abortion in the state constitution. But the court stopped short of declaring what the standard of review should be for pro-life laws going forward. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which empowered states to regulate abortion in a manner that best preserves the lives of unborn children and their mothers, makes clear that standard should be rational-basis review—not Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s malleable “undue burden” test.
“While we celebrate the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that there are important interests in protecting life, we know our work must continue to enact and preserve laws that protect unborn children and mothers,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life. “The Iowa Supreme Court took a critical step in recognizing that no right to abortion exists in the state constitution. Now that we have guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court, we are urging the state high court to take the next logical step.”
“In adopting the rational-basis standard, the [U.S.] Supreme Court disavowed Casey’s ‘arbitrary’ and ‘unworkable’ undue-burden test,” the petition for rehearing explains. “Continued adherence to that standard would undermine, not advance, the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles. So the Court rightly discarded it.” And with “the benefit of the Supreme Court’s reasoning, this Court now should do the same,” the petition continued.
The Iowa Constitution makes no mention of abortion, but in 2018—161 years after the ratification of Iowa’s current Constitution—a majority of the Iowa Supreme Court claimed there was a “fundamental right” to abortion under the Iowa Constitution, under which virtually every law that the legislature passes to protect the life of an unborn child would be deemed unconstitutional under the so-called “strict scrutiny” standard.
That decision, which shut the door on the democratic process, was broader in its protection of abortion than the US Supreme Court’s decisions Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and it placed the Iowa Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence to the left of almost every state in the nation.
Thankfully, on June 17, the Iowa Supreme Court corrected that grave error, overruling the 2018 decision. A majority of the justices firmly rejected “the proposition that there is a fundamental right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution subjecting abortion regulation to strict scrutiny,” saying that the 2018 decision was a “one-sided” ruling that “lacks textual and historical support.”
Nevertheless, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs, the Iowa Supreme Court did not definitively decide what standard, if any, should be applied to abortion restrictions under the Iowa Constitution. A plurality of justices invited the parties to litigate that issue further, and in the meantime they declared that the “undue burden” standard from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey would govern Iowa law “for now.” But the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that standard in Dobbs.
As LifeNews reported, the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, with a 6-3 majority ruling in the Dobbs case that “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion” — allowing states to ban abortions and protect unborn babies. The high court also ruled 6-3 uphold the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban so states can further limit abortions and to get rid of the false viability standard.
Chief Justice John Roberts technically voted for the judgment but, in his concurring opinion, disagreed with the reasoning and said he wanted to keep abortions legal but with a new standard.
Texas and Oklahoma had banned abortions before Roe was overturned and Missouri became the first state after Roe to protect babies from abortions and South Dakota became the 2nd. Then Arkansas became the third state protecting babies from abortions and Kentucky became the 4th and Louisiana became the 5th and Ohio became the 6th and Utah became the 7th and Oklahoma became the 8th and Alabama became the 9th. This week, Mississippi became the 10th and South Carolina became the 11th,Texas became the 12th with its pre-Roe law and Tennessee became the 13th.
Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia have old pro-life laws on the books but there is question about whether they are applicable and will be enforced.
Ultimately, as many as 26 states could immediately or quickly ban abortions and protect babies from certain death for the first time in nearly 50 years.
The 13 total states with trigger laws that would effectively ban all or most abortions are: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito wrote.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences,” Alito wrote. “And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer authored a joint dissent condemning the decision as enabling states to enact “draconian” restrictions on women.
Polls show Americans are pro-life on abortion and a new national poll shows 75% of Americans essentially agree with the Supreme Court overturning Roe.
Despite false reports that abortion bans would prevent doctors from treating pregnant women for miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, pro-life doctors confirm that is not the case. Some 35 states have laws making it clear that miscarriage is not abortion and every state with an abortion ban allows treatment for both.