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Iowa Supreme Court overrides temporary block of state heartbeat law

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signing heartbeat law Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Neibergall

Iowa Supreme Court overrides temporary block of state heartbeat law

The state’s highest court issued a 4-3 ruling on Friday to override a temporary injunction placed on the state’s heartbeat law, once again protecting unborn babies from abortion after about six weeks of gestation. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s heartbeat law, which prompted a lower court to pause the law’s enforcement. Iowa law previously barred abortions after 20 weeks, nearly halfway through the second trimester. The pro-life law passed last summer protects babies from abortion once doctors detect a heartbeat, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The court ruling temporarily allows the law to be enforced while Planned Parenthood’s court case continues.

What did the majority opinion say? No state history or text establishes abortion as a protected right under the Iowa constitution, Justice Matthew McDermott wrote in the majority opinion. The fetal heartbeat law relates to the state’s legitimate interest in protecting unborn life and does not merit a court-ruled injunction, the opinion stated. Justices Christopher McDonald, Dana Oxley, and David May joined in the majority opinion.

What did the minority dissenting opinion say? The majority ruling strips Iowa women of bodily autonomy with an approach from male-dominated 19th-century tradition, Chief Justice Susan Christensen wrote in her dissent. Her dissent, joined by Justices Edward Mansfield and Thomas Waterman, alleged that Iowa’s history of abortion was not as straightforward as McDermott’s opinion suggested. The state’s exceptions to allow abortions are unattainable for many women, Christensen added.

How are people reacting to the ruling? Public opinion around the decision has been mixed. Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds praised the ruling and reaffirmed the right to life and the defense of the unborn. The state will continue supporting women and men in parenthood and develop policies to encourage strong families, she added. This ruling is a victory for life with commonsense exceptions, U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, said. She vowed to continue working to expand maternal care and support for expectant mothers in the U.S. House.

To neighboring Iowa, Minnesota is and will remain a safe haven for reproductive freedom, state Democratic Gov. Tim Walz wrote in response to the ruling. Republicans went too far with this abortion ban, and voters will hold them accountable this November, wrote Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart. Several government figures criticized the decision, including Vice President Kamala Harris. The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision will cause a healthcare crisis for women across the state, she alleged.

Dig deeper: Read Josh Schumacher’s report on another pro-life Iowa Supreme Court ruling from 2022.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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