Iowa judge rules ‘heartbeat’ abortion law unconstitutional

Executive Director of Alternatives Pregnancy Center Janet Lyons points to a plastic replica of a fetus at twelve weeks which is used to show women who come into the center to find out if they are pregnant and what the stage of growth looks like, in Waterloo, Iowa, July 6, 2011. | (Photo: REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

A district court judge has ruled that an Iowa law banning abortion once a baby's heartbeat can be detected is unconstitutional.

Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert released a decision on Tuesday, citing the Iowa Supreme Court and its previous striking down of a law mandating a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

“The Iowa Supreme Court held that a woman’s right to decide whether 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,” wrote Huppert in his decision.

ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis said in a statement released Tuesday that the decision was a “victory” that was “essential to the rights and safety of women in Iowa.”

“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,” said Bettis, according to the Des Moines Register.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who signed the bill into law last year, told The Daily Iowan that she was “disappointed” by the decision.

“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,” said Reynolds.

Last year, Iowa passed Senate File 359, which sought to forbid doctors from performing abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which can come as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Republican state Senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City explained last year that the bill was meant to challenge the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

Pro-Life groups expressed mixed reactions toward the legislation, with some taking issue over it having exemptions for rape and incest.

Last May, Reynolds signed the bill into law, saying in a statement that by signing SF 359, she was verifying her pledge to protect all innocent life.

“For me, it is immoral to stop an innocent beating heart. For me, it is sickening to sell fetal body parts. For me, my faith leads me to protect every Iowan, no matter how small,” the governor said at the time.

“I understand and anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court, and that courts may even put a hold on the law until it reaches the Supreme Court. However, this is bigger than just a law. This is about life.”

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