An Iowa judge has blocked a state law restricting abortion once a fetus’ heartbeat is detected, upholding a court decision from three years ago that said it violated the state constitution.
Judge Celene Gogerty on Monday said there is no legal means for the court to reverse a permanent injunction issued against the state’s fetal heartbeat law in 2019. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has vowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
“I’m very disappointed in the ruling filed today by the district court, but regardless of the outcome, this case was always going to the Iowa Supreme Court,” Reynolds said. “We will appeal this decision immediately.”
Iowa currently prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but Reynolds had sought to have the courts overturn a 2019 decision that struck down a bill she signed the previous year. The so-called “heartbeat law” made abortions illegal after a fetal heartbeat can be detected – usually around six weeks of pregnancy. The law contained exemptions for medical emergencies, incest and rape.
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Abortion providers have called the six-week restriction “extreme and dangerous,” pointing out that most women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in Iowa, led the successful 2019 lawsuit that challenged the heartbeat law as unconstitutional.
“The ruling affirms access to abortion and reflects the will of the growing majority of Iowans who support safe, legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa PAC said. “Every win—whether in the courts or in the legislature—ensures Iowans can turn to Planned Parenthood for the care they need.”
Reynolds argued that because of decisions earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme Court that found there is no constitutional right to abortion, the Iowa judge should reverse the 2019 decision blocking the heartbeat law.
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Planned Parenthood attorneys countered that there is no precedent or legal support for reversing a decision finalized by a judge years earlier. They argued the legislature must pass a new law, and the judge agreed.
In her decision Monday, Gogerty wrote that state law didn’t give her the power to dissolve the permanent injunction and let the new abortion law take effect. Even if she had that power, Gogerty wrote that the Iowa Supreme Court decision finding no constitutional right to abortion didn’t substantially change how the abortion law would have been judged under the Iowa Constitution, according to the Associated Press.
In her statement, Reynolds reiterated there is no constitutional right to an abortion and expressed optimism that the state Supreme Court – which has five members nominated by Reynolds – would ultimately side with abortion opponents.
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“As the Iowa and US Supreme Courts have made clear, there is no fundamental right to an abortion,” Reynolds said. “The decision of the people’s representatives to protect life should be honored, and I believe the court will ultimately do so. As long as I’m Governor, I will continue to fight for the sanctity of life and for the unborn.”