Iowa's New Heartbeat Bill Temporarily Blocked by Judge

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

It didn’t take long for Iowa’s new Heartbeat Bill to be placed on hold pending litigation. The bill, which bans abortions after cardiac activity is observed via ultrasound (usually between the sixth and eighth week of pregnancy), was signed into law by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Friday while she was attending the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines.

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The bill, which is similar to one passed in 2018 that the courts struck down, passed the Iowa legislature on Tuesday in an all-day special session.

But even as Governor Reynolds was signing it, a hearing regarding the bill’s legality was being held in Polk County District Court, less than a mile away.

The challenge to the Iowa ban, which was passed along party lines in a special, 14-hour legislative session Tuesday, was brought by the ACLU of Iowa, Planned Parenthood North Central States and the Emma Goldman Clinic Wednesday morning.

We are seeking to block the ban because we know that every day this law is in effect, Iowans will face life-threatening barriers to getting desperately needed medical care — just as we have seen in other states with similar bans,” Rita Bettis Austen, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa, said in a statement.

At the hearing, Judge Joseph Seidlin indicated he was taking the matter under advisement and would issue a ruling in a few days.

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By Monday afternoon, Seidlin had issued a temporary injunction, which halts the bill from going into effect until the matter is fully litigated. In doing so, Seidlin stated:

The court will grant the temporary injunction requested here. In doing so, it recognizes that there are good, honorable and intelligent people — morally, politically and legally — on both sides of this upsetting societal and constitutional dilemma. Patience and perseverance are also hallmark traits on both sides, traits that continue to deserve respect.

The court believes it must follow current Iowa Supreme Court precedent and preserve the status quo ante while this litigation moves forward.

In response to the injunction, Governor Reynolds issued the following statement:

While Life was protected for a few days, now even more innocent babies will be lost. The abortion industry’s attempt to thwart the will of Iowans and the voices of their elected representatives continues today, but I will fight this all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court where we expect a decision that will finally provide justice for the unborn.

As indicated above, litigation over a similar 2018 law recently ended in the earlier provision being struck down.

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The new law came just weeks after the state Supreme Court issued a split decision allowing an earlier six-week abortion ban — which lawmakers had enacted in 2018 — to remain permanently blocked.

While the new one almost identical to the six-week ban that remains blocked, the outcome of the challenge this time around could be different, because there will be a full state Supreme Court issuing a decision.

The state Supreme Court’s split ruling last month was a narrowly tailored decision based largely on procedural grounds, meaning it remains possible — if not likely — that a full seven-member court could find legal consensus on a new ban.

Litigation over the new law will now wind its way through the Iowa courts. RedState will provide updates as they become available.

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