Judge Sides With Planned Parenthood, Says Iowa ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Law Is Unconstitutional

January 23, 2019 Updated: January 24, 2019

A federal judge said in a Jan. 22 ruling that the “heartbeat” abortion law, which would have banned nearly all abortions after babies in the womb had a detectable heartbeat, was unconstitutional.

Michael Huppert, chief district judge in Polk County and a Drake University graduate, said that the law (pdf), which was passed in 2018, could not be enforced.

Huppert cited a ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court in a legal challenge to a different law that would have restricted abortion. “A woman’s right to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution, and that any governmental limits on that right are to be analyzed using strict scrutiny,” he wrote.

Huppert wrote that the law “is violative of both the due process and equal protective provisions of the Iowa Constitution as not being narrowly tailored to serve the compelling state interest of promoting potential life,” reported WeAreIowa, which published the full ruling.

He also said that women seeking abortions should not have “restrictions based either upon arbitrary timelines, or…the detection of a fetal heartbeat.”

Pro-abortion groups Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the legal challenge.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said in a statement that the ruling was a disappointment. “I am incredibly disappointed in today’s court ruling, because I believe that if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then a beating heart indicates life,” she said.

In a statement after signing the law in May, Reynolds had said, “I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred, and as governor, I pledged to do everything in my power to protect it. That is what I am doing today.”

kim reynolds of iowa
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds waves after speaking during a ceremonial swearing-in at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa on May 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for Life, told the Des Moines Register that she had been “hopeful this judge would be fair in allowing the matter to go before a fair trial” before a jury.

“I think it’s a travesty of justice that’s not going to happen,” she added.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU celebrated the ruling, which will face legal challenges as opponents try to get it overturned on appeal.

“Today’s victory is essential to the rights and safety of women in Iowa,” ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said in a statement. “It follows in the footsteps of the Iowa Supreme Court decision on abortion in 2018 that recognized the fundamental right to a safe and legal abortion for Iowa women, which cannot be legislated away.”

The law would have required physicians to conduct an ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat on any woman seeking an abortion and, if a heartbeat was detected, an abortion couldn’t be performed.

Fetal heartbeats can generally be detected about six weeks into a pregnancy.

john kasich veteos heartbeat bill
Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivers his State of the State address at the Sandusky State Theatre in Sandusky, Ohio on April 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

A previous Iowa law barred most abortions after 20 weeks, one of the most restrictive laws in the nation. After Iowa passed the “heartbeat” law, a number of other states attempted or succeeded in passing similar laws. In some cases, the bills didn’t pass because of potential legal challenges.

Then-outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a bill that had passed both the House and Senate in the state in December 2018, citing a potential legal challenge.

“As governor, I have worked hard to strengthen Ohio’s protections for the sanctity of human life, and I have a deep respect for my fellow members of the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in defense of unborn life,” Kasich said in a statement.

“However, the central provision of Sub. H.B. 258, that an abortion cannot be performed if a heartbeat has been detected in the unborn child, is contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion. Because the lower federal courts are bound to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents on abortion, Sub. H.B. 258 will likely be struck down as unconstitutional.”

From NTD News

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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