Pro-life groups ask judge to lift injunction on Iowa’s ‘heartbeat law’

Missouri abortion law, Iowa

In August 2022, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a brief with the Polk County District Court on behalf of Governor Reynolds and the state of Iowa, arguing that due to the Iowa Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision reversing its 2018 opinion that found a “constitutional right to an abortion” in Iowa, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the District Court should remove the injunction against Iowa’s Fetal Heartbeat Law and allow the legislation to take effect. On October 28, ADF formally asked Polk County District Court Judge Celene Gogerty to lift the 2019 injunction on the law.

ADF is representing Governor Reynolds and the state because Iowa’s long-time Attorney General Tom Miller has refused to defend the law because of his pro-abortion views. He failed to defend the law in 2018 and again in 2022, and has faced no repercussions — not even a pay decrease — for his refusal to defend the law. In 2018, the Thomas More Society represented Governor Reynolds and the state; both the Thomas More Society and Alliance Defending Freedom have provided their services pro bono. 

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ADF Attorney Christopher Schandevel told Judge Gogerty, “Because now that there is no fundamental right to an abortion in the state of Iowa’s Constitution or the U.S. Constitution, now it is clear that strict scrutiny is no longer the test, and now that it’s clear that the viability line is no more, faithfully applying Iowa binding law requires the court to reach a different result.”

During the trial proceedings, Judge Gogerty asked the attorneys if she had the power to reverse the injunction. “How can a district court tell the Supreme Court? I don’t have the authority to do that, do I?” She wondered aloud whether or not a District Court Judge has the “jurisdiction to reverse the injunction” or can determine a “new legal standard” in Iowa to protect abortion. In closing, she announced she would release her decision by the end of two months.

Iowa’s law, signed by pro-life Governor Kim Reynolds in 2018, protects preborn children after a heartbeat can be detected, at approximately six weeks into a pregnancy. The law allows for several exceptions. The ACLU, Iowa’s Planned Parenthood, and Emma Goldman Abortion Clinic in Iowa City promptly sued. On June 1, 2018, a few weeks after the bill’s signing, Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert issued an injunction, blocking enforcement of the lifesaving legislation.

Several months later, Judge Huppert ruled that there was “a fundamental right to abortion under the state constitution and that abortion restrictions must meet the strict scrutiny standard” based on the 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that held a woman has “a fundamental right to an abortion.” The judge said the law “could not meet that testand permanently enjoined the state, disallowing the implementation of the law. Governor Reynolds declined to appeal his decision and the injunction still stands.

At the time of the bill’s passage, it was referred to as “the most stringent, comprehensive abortion ban in the nation.” Since 2018, other states have passed similar legislation, with varying degrees of success. The laws have been implemented and are now saving countless lives in some states. In others, the bills, signed into law, are mired in court challenges.

Despite Attorney Schandevel pointing to both the Iowa and U.S. Supreme Court rulings to overturn the long-touted “constitutional right to an abortion,” the ACLU of Iowa’s legal director and Planned Parenthood attorney Rita Bettis Austen argued that the law “was unconstitutional when it passed” and “remains unconstitutional today.”

Since the reversal of Roe, abortion activists and the complicit mainstream media peddle the falsehood that laws like these criminalize women – imprisoning them for having an abortion. However, even the pro-abortion Associated Press had to admit that this is not true. Buried in the very last sentence of a lengthy article, their writer acknowledges that none of the heartbeat bills in the nation punish women who have an abortion. She wrote that pregnant women “… are not held liable under any of the laws.” Pro-life laws frequently penalize an abortionist, but not women.

Currently an abortion sanctuary state, pregnant women allegedly travel to Iowa from as far as Texas and Louisiana for abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy. Iowa’s abortion sanctuary status would change if the judge, who is not affiliated with a political party, were to lift the injunction, allowing the pro-life protections to stand. If she does so, her decision will save many lives from abortion.

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