Iowa won’t appeal court decision that struck down the ‘fetal heartbeat bill’ as unconstitutional

Photo by John via Flickr

The state of Iowa will not appeal a Polk County District judge’s decision ruling that the state’s so-called “fetal heartbeat law” violates the Iowa Constitution, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced on Monday.

“This was an extremely difficult decision, however it is the right one for the pro-life movement and the state of Iowa,” Reynolds said in a written statement.

The law banned almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected (which typically happens at six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant). The governor said in her statement she understood when she signed the bill into law that it would be challenged in court and the legal fight “might take us all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Republicans in the legislature had expressed hope that the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court might uphold the Iowa law, and use that decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In her statement, the governor explained,

[E]verything changed last June, when the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our 72-hour waiting period after concluding that the Iowa Constitution provides a right to an abortion and imposes strict scrutiny on all our abortion laws. I think the Iowa Supreme Court got it wrong. But 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.

Last month, District Judge Michael Huppert struck down the fetal heartbeat law, finding it “would relegate the individual rights of Iowa women to something less than fundamental. It would allow the legislature to intrude upon the profoundly personal realms of family and reproductive autonomy, virtually unchecked, so long as it stopped just short of requiring women to move heaven and earth.”

Huppert’s ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the ACLU of Iowa and Iowa City’s Emma Goldman Clinic.

In his Jan. 22 decision, Huppert concluded the Iowa Constitution requires that any law restricting a person’s fundamental rights, including a woman’s reproductive rights, must pass the legal standard of “strict scrutiny” — the state must show a compelling reason for the law, and the law must be drafted as narrowly as possible.

“The guarantee of substantive due process requires nothing less,” Huppert wrote.

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