A leading pro-life legal group is asking the state Supreme Court to allow the state’s heartbeat law to take effect so it can save babies from abortions.
Alliance Defending Freedom today filed a friend-of-the-court brief ADF attorneys filed Wednesday with the Iowa Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds, urging the court to allow the state’s fetal heartbeat law to take effect.
“States have the strongest possible interest in protecting the most fundamental of our human rights—the right to life,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Chris Schandevel told LifeNews.
He said, “Iowans are eager to affirm that life is a human right, which is why the legislature has passed the fetal heartbeat law multiple times, trying its best to enshrine into law further protections for unborn children. Iowa women deserve the dignity and respect that comes from receiving life-affirming health care—not the abortion industry’s false choice between doing what’s best for women and protecting the lives of their unborn children. We are urging the court to allow the state’s fetal heartbeat law to finally take effect.”
Earlie this month, in a 64-page brief, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird asked the state Supreme Court to uphold Iowa’s Heartbeat law which has been under an injunction since July, three days after pro-life Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it into law.
“The people of Iowa and their elected representatives have spoken clearly and by a wider margin than before: it’s time for the Fetal Heartbeat Law to be upheld once and for all,” Gov. Reynolds said. “The injunction placed on Iowa’s Fetal Heartbeat Law has already led to the innocent deaths of children. It needs to end. Every life is valuable and worth our state’s protection – no matter what stage of life they are in.” The law prevent abortions after the fetal heartbeat can be detected, approximately after six weeks of gestation.
“We know that every moment counts when it comes to protecting the unborn and are working diligently to ensure the Heartbeat Law is upheld,” AG Bird said in a statement. “I’m confident that the law is on our side, and we will continue fighting to defend the right to life in court.”
In her brief, Bird wrote
That ruling was error. The State of Iowa has a vital interest in protecting unborn human life at all stages of development. The injunction precluding enforcement of Iowa’s Fetal Heartbeat Statute undermines that interest, ignores recent developments in State and federal law, and misapplies this Court’s recent abortion precedent”.
The Republican attorney general argues in the brief that the challenge by Planned Parenthood North Central States, the Emma Goldman Clinic and the ACLU of Iowa should be rejected, as it relies on the legal test rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. Bird also argues ‘abortion providers cannot sue at all, given that there is no constitutional right to provide abortions,’ according to a news release.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill but Polk County Judge Joseph W. Seidlin temporarily blocked the law while the case moves forward. That means abortion is once again legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
This summer, the state’s highest court determined that Reynolds can appeal the block and so state attorneys will move forward with filing legal papers to get the heartbeat law active again.
Abortion businesses Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the Emma Goldman Clinic and abortionist Sarah Traxler filed suit to block the law, claiming it would irreparably harm Iowans even though it protects Iowa babies from death.
The Iowa General Assembly passed the bill in a special legislative session. The bill passed in a vote of 56 to 34 in the Iowa House and 32 to 17 in the Iowa Senate.
“We praise Governor Kim Reynolds, pro-life members of the Iowa legislature, and pro-life leaders across the state,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “We also praise our Iowa affiliate, Iowa Right to Life, for their hard work in passing this law which will protect unborn children.”
A leading pro-life group told LifeNews is was elated by the governor’s actions. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser celebrated the victory:
“We congratulate Iowa on becoming the 25th state with strong pro-life protections on the books. Just over a year after Dobbs, half the country recognizes the humanity of babies in the womb and their laws reflect it. A beating heart is a vital sign of life and science shows that an unborn baby has more than a 90% chance of survival once his or her heartbeat can be detected. Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature persisted to get the Fetal Heartbeat Act across the finish line, showing their respect for the will of Iowans the people and compassion for mothers and their children. Now, thousands of Iowa’s most vulnerable children will be given the gift of life and a chance to discover their unique purpose in this world.”
Nationwide polls and polling data in states across the nation shows Americans support heartbeat laws to protect babies from abortions.
The governor’s call for the special session to pass the heartbeat law came after the Iowa Supreme Court, on a narrow 3-3 decision, struck down a similiar law the legislature passed before the Dobbs case that would protect the lives of unborn babies who have a detectable heartbeat. The state court’s decision set forth parameters that the legislature could use to pass a new heartbeat law that would be found constitutional and add Iowa to the list of states providing legal protection for unborn children.
If the Iowa Supreme Court upholds the legislation, Iowa would become the 17th state to protect babies either starting at conception or when their heartbeat can be detected at 6 weeks. Another 4 states protect babies starting at 12 or 15 weeks.
The governor said babies need protection from abortion as quickly as possible, which is why she is signing the legislation his week.
“The Iowa Supreme Court questioned whether this legislature would pass the same law they did in 2018, and today they have a clear answer. The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives cannot be ignored any longer, and justice for the unborn should not be delayed,” Reynolds said.
She added: “As a pro-life Governor, I am also committed to continuing policies to support women in planning for motherhood, promote the importance of fatherhood, and encourage strong families. Our state and country will be stronger because of it.”
The state’s Senate passed a bill late Tuesday in a 32 to 17 vote and the state House voted 56-34 largely along party lines to advance the measure. In the House, every Democrat voted against the pro-life bill while every Republican in favor except Reps. Mark Cisneros, R-Muscatine, and Zach Dieken, R-Granville. Ten representatives were absent. On the Senate side, one Republican, Sen. Mike Klimesh, voted against the bill, as did all Democrats. All other Republicans voted in favor of the bill. One senator was absent.
The bill includes exceptions for miscarriages, when the life of the pregnant woman is threatened and fetal abnormalities that would result in the infant’s death. It also includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rapes reported within 45 days and incest reported within 140 days.
Maggie DeWitt of the Iowa pro-life group Pule Life Advocates told LifeNews she was excited by the bill’s passage.
“Today is a monumental day in Iowa. The Heartbeat bill has passed in both chambers and will go to Governor Reynolds for her signature,” she said. “Thank you Governor Reynolds for calling this special session and for our pro-life legislature for acting quickly. We have been waiting since 2018 when our first heartbeat bill was signed into law for Iowa to move forward in protecting the most vulnerable of our society.”
“The day started with a public hearing and ended with debate in both chambers and passage of this bill,” she added. “We are now a step closer to providing equal protection under the law for our pre-born brothers and sisters. And we look forward to the day when all life is valued.”
The bill also makes it clear that it is abortionists who are punished for killing babies not women: the new law is “not to be construed to impose civil or criminal liability on a woman upon whom an abortion is performed in violation of the division.” And the Iowa Board of Medicine will determine how abortionists are disciplined.
Abortion is curently legal up to 20 weeks in Iowa and the new bill would drop that to 6 weeks, when a baby’s heartbeat can be heard on a sonogram.
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