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ACLU opposes Iowa Gov. Reynolds’ request that state Supreme Court end permanent injunction on Iowa fetal heartbeat law

by | Sep 14, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing Planned Parenthood Union of Iowa, responded Tuesday to pro-life Gov. Kim Reynolds’s call to reinstate the state’s fetal heartbeat law, arguing there is “no precedent or legal support for bringing back a law banning most abortions, which a judge had permanently blocked in 2019,” according to The Associate Press’ Dave Pitts.

However, the legal landscape has changed fundamentally. The Iowa Supreme Court overturned a 2018 ruling finding that the state Constitution protected abortion as a fundamental right. And, on June 24, “the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its own prior decisions that legalized abortion nationwide and provided a framework for regulating it.” Pitts wrote.

“Now is the time for us to stand up and continue the fight to protect the unborn,” Reynolds said in a statement issued a few days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “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.”

Reynolds contends that these joint decisions “justify reversing a state court judge’s decision that the abortion ban law was unconstitutional — and therefore unenforceable.”

“The judge based his opinion on U.S. Supreme Court precedent, as well as an Iowa Supreme Court decision in 2018 that declared abortion a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution,” Pitts reported. 

Taken together, reported Stephen Gruber-Miller, Ian Richardson, and  Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register, “those decisions give Iowa lawmakers much more leeway to restrict abortion. Under current law, abortions in Iowa are banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions only to save the life of the mother.”

Prominent state Republicans issued statements in support of Reynolds , including both Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and House Speaker Pat Grassley.

 “For far too long, flawed court rulings at the state and federal levels have blocked many of our attempts to listen to Iowans and expand pro-life protections,” Grassley said in a statement. “Iowa House Republicans’ goal is to protect the lives of the unborn. That’s why I support the governor’s decision on these legal actions as the best path forward to protect innocent life.”

The 2018 fetal heartbeat law would ban abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, when an embryo’s heart can be detected.  

According to Gruber-Miller, in its brief, the states says

the interests at stake in the case include “respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development; the protection of maternal health and safety; the elimination of particularly gruesome or barbaric medical procedures; the preservation of the integrity of the medical profession; the mitigation of fetal pain; and the prevention of discrimination on the basis of race, sex or disability.”

Categories: State Legislation