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Iowa Supreme Court weighs most basic human right: Right to life

by | Feb 14, 2023

Gov. Reynolds asks state’s high court to finally allow fetal heartbeat law to take effect

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Gov. Kim Reynolds filed their opening brief with the Iowa Supreme Court Monday, asking the court to allow the state’s fetal heartbeat law to take effect. That law was enacted in 2018 to protect unborn lives by prohibiting elective abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The lawsuit is Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds.

Back in 2019, a state trial court put the fetal heartbeat law on hold based on an Iowa Supreme Court case that had found a state constitutional right to an abortion. Last year, ADF attorneys helped persuade the Iowa Supreme Court to hold that there is no so-called right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution, and Reynolds is now asking the court to lift the injunction on the heartbeat law. ADF attorneys are serving as co-counsel alongside Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird and local counsel Alan Ostergren.

“States have the strongest possible interest in protecting the most fundamental of our human rights—the right to life—and we’re pleased to represent Gov. Reynolds and all Iowans as they defend the lives of the unborn,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life. “We urge the Iowa Supreme Court to lift the injunction on the state’s fetal heartbeat law not only to spare countless unborn lives, but also to defend the dignity and health of women—providing them real support and health care during a vulnerable time.”

In the brief ADF attorneys filed with the district court on the governor’s behalf in August, they explained that two significant changes in the law last year removed all legal barriers to implementing Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law: the Iowa Supreme Court’s reversal of its 2018 decision finding a so-called state constitutional right to an abortion and the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

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.

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