Iowa Signs Abortion Ban for 2nd Time Amid Legal Challenges

Iowa Signs Abortion Ban for 2nd Time Amid Legal Challenges
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds gives the Condition of the State address to members of the Iowa Legislature inside the House Chamber at the Iowa state Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 10, 2023. (Kelsey Kremer/The Des Moines Register via AP, File)
Catherine Yang
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In front of a huge crowd on Friday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a measure banning abortion once cardiac activity is detected in the womb. It goes into effect immediately.

“This is a worthy battle and one I will never concede,” said Ms. Reynolds, signing the measure at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, where most GOP presidential candidates were in attendance.
Earlier this week, Ms. Reynolds called for a special session in the legislature to come up with the measure after the Iowa Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision on a previous six-week ban Ms. Reynolds had signed back in 2018. Both the House and Senate have a Republican majority, and the bill was expected to pass expeditiously. Democrats were all opposed, and 10 representatives and one senator was absent; two senators and two representatives were opposed.
After seven hours of debate, the bill passed at the eleventh hour on July 11, as protestors became rowdy.

“This bill protects unborn children in Iowa,” said Republican state Rep. Shannon Lundgren. “This bill sets a clear standard where the state has an interest in the life of the child: when the baby’s heart starts beating. Where there is a heartbeat, there is life.”

Iowa had previously banned abortion after around the 20-week mark, and its 2018 six-week ban was never enforced.

What’s Changed?

“I understand that not everyone will agree with this decision,” Ms. Reynolds said in a statement after signing the bill in 2018. “But if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn’t a beating heart indicate life? For me, it is immoral to stop an innocent beating heart.”

Many did disagree with the decision: the law was challenged in court and ultimately resulted in a stalemate.

Abortion providers have already filed a lawsuit (pdf) to stop the new “fetal heartbeat” law, which includes exceptions in cases to preserve the life of the mother and for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Cardiac activity can usually be detected via ultrasound at around six weeks, so medical providers are expecting a six-week cap to abortion procedures.

In the lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, petitioners state that many women don’t realize they are pregnant until the six week mark or later. “If it is not enjoined, the Act will Decimate access to abortions in Iowa,” it states.

Because the legislation is nearly identical to the blocked 2018 law, the petitioners argue it should not hold. They are seeking an emergency injunction to keep it from taking effect immediately.

“The Iowa Supreme Court questioned whether this legislature would pass the same law they did in 2018, and today they have a clear answer,“ Ms. Reynolds stated after the bill was passed. ”The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives cannot be ignored any longer, and justice for the unborn should not be delayed.”

The 2018 court battle resulted in the law being blocked in the lower courts, with the state seeking a reversal when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. On the basis that a six-week ban would ban nearly all abortions, a judge ruled that the law would violate the Iowa Constitution. The state appealed this in the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled that abortion was not protected by the state constitution, but came to a 3–3 stalemate on the original case.

Given that the state constitution was the original block, the post-Dobbs six-week ban could hold.

Candidates Respond

Republican primary candidates have been pressed for answers on their stances regarding abortion laws in the past week, and many attended the Family Leadership Summit where Ms. Reynolds signed the bill into law.
Former President Donald Trump, who did not attend the event, notably stayed quiet on this specific case. Despite that, he retains support from pro-life voters, even in Iowa. During a visit last week, he reminded a crowd that the U.S. Supreme Court justices he nominated helped overturn Roe v. Wade, giving power back to the states.
Former President Donald Trump greets supporters at an event in Grimes, Iowa on June 1, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump greets supporters at an event in Grimes, Iowa on June 1, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
On Tuesday, Vivek Ramaswamy stopped by Iowa’s Capitol to meet with legislators and Ms. Reynolds during the special session. On Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence spoke with the Des Moines Register about the bill and how his nonprofit, Advancing American Freedom, spent $25,000 on ads and texts encouraging local citizens to show their support to their representatives.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks engages with attendees at a campaign event in Boone, Iowa, on July 4, 2023. (Lawrence Wilson / The Epoch Times)
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks engages with attendees at a campaign event in Boone, Iowa, on July 4, 2023. (Lawrence Wilson / The Epoch Times)

“I think life is winning in Iowa because of the principled leadership of Republicans in the House and Senate and Gov. Kim Reynolds,” Mr. Pence said. “And as a pro-life American, I’m just grateful for their stand for the unborn.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had signed a similar bill in his own state.

Ms. Reynolds said on Friday that Democratic candidates should be pressed on abortion issues as well.

“Like every pro-life candidate, they’re often questioned by the media about the issue of abortion. That’s perfectly appropriate; or at least it would be if similar questions were ever directed at the other side,” Ms. Reynold said. Democrats President Joe Biden and candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had been invited to the summit but did not accept.

“When is an unborn baby worth protecting? Or are there no limits?” she said at the summit. “For the media here today: if you think I’m wrong, just ask them. Make no mistake, with almost no exceptions, Democrats believe in abortion on demand up until the very moment of birth.”