District Judge Strikes Down Iowa Heartbeat Bill

By The Stream Published on January 23, 2019

A state judge ruled Tuesday that Iowa’s so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill violates the state’s constitution.

Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert ruled that the law is unconstitutional because of earlier decisions from the Iowa Supreme Court that support abortion. He also cited several cases in federal court, including decisions in 2015 and 2016 in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that indicated such abortion laws were unconstitutional.

Huppert said prohibiting abortions at the detection of a fetal heartbeat violates “both the due process and equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution as not being narrowly tailored to serve the compelling state interest of promoting potential life.”

The law would ban an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

“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,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. She signed the bill into law in May 2018.

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Abortion providers Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic brought the legal challenge which halted the bill from taking effect last July. The providers argued in court in December that the law is “blatantly unconstitutional under clear Iowa law.”

Attorney Martin Cannon argued for the state that the bill is extremely narrow in focus by saying a beating heart signifies life in a fetus and that human life must be protected once an abdominal ultrasound identifies a beating heart.

Supporters of the law are likely to ask the Iowa Supreme Court to hear an appeal of Huppert’s ruling.

North Dakota and Arkansas have passed similar laws in the past, but both were struck down by courts. Other states, including Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, Wyoming, Mississippi and Alabama have had heartbeat bills introduced, though none have become law. Most recently, members of the Florida House have introduced a fetal heartbeat protection bill.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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