‘Heartbeat law’ temporarily blocked, lawsuit continues

Iowa’s newest abortion law is being challenged in court by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ben A

A woman speaks during a protest on the Pentacrest in Iowa City on Saturday, May 5. The protest was held in response to Gov. Kim Reynolds' signing of a new bill that will ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected in the early stages of pregnancy. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa’s fetal-heartbeat law will not take effect July 1 as backers had originally planned.

On June 1, an Iowa district-court judge temporarily blocked the law from taking effect after the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine to block the law both temporarily and permanently.

The two groups served as co-counsel on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Jill Meadows, a physician and the medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. The Emma Goldman Clinic of Iowa City is also a co-plaintiff in the case.

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“We are challenging this law on behalf of our patients and all Iowans,” President/CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Suzanna de Baca said in a press release following the filing of the lawsuit. “The citizens of our state overwhelmingly reject attempts to restrict an individual’s rights and ability to control their own destiny.”

The injunction is not permanent, and it only stops the law from taking effect while litigation works its way through the judicial system. The current law, which restricts abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, is still in effect.

With the temporary injunction in place, the court will review the other part of the lawsuit, which is a request for a permanent injunction on the contention that the law is unconstitutional.

In a statement following the signing of the bill, Reynolds said she anticipates the law to be challenged in court but said she will not back down from what she believes in or who she is.

“We knew there would be a legal fight, but it’s a fight worth having to protect innocent life, Reynolds press secretary Brenna Smith said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Right now, the law is on hold, and the state will present its case soon.”

ACLU of Iowa communications director Veronica Lorson Fowler said the case will likely to go to the Iowa Supreme Court, which is the ultimate interpreter of the Iowa Constitution.

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She noted the case is unlikely to move to the federal court system, noting that the lawsuit was filed in state district court under the state Constitution.

“The Iowa Supreme Court has a strong tradition of protecting individual rights, and it’s made it clear in recent abortion-rights decisions that the Iowa Constitution protects the right to abortion just as much as the U.S. Constitution, if not more so,” Lorson Fowler said.

The law would ban physicians from performing nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which occurs around six weeks. Around that time, a woman may begin to have signs of pregnancy, said Francine Thompson, the co-director of the Emma Goldman.

According to court documents, the clinic provided more than 600 abortions in 2017. Of those, around 2 percent, 11, occurred prior to six weeks into the pregnancy.

The bill passed the state House on May 1 on a 51-46 vote and the state Senate hours later, 29-17. From there, it was sent to Reynolds’ desk, and she signed it May 4.

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