Iowa will not appeal ruling ending ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion law, governor says

(CNN) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says the state will not appeal a ruling striking down the so-called “fetal heartbeat” law, which would have been one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bans.

The law, signed by Reynolds in May 2018, would have prohibited Iowa doctors from performing most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. A state judge declared the law unconstitutional last month.

In a statement Monday, the governor said the “extremely difficult decision” not to appeal was tied to the Iowa State Supreme Court’s ruling last June that Iowa’s constitution provides a right to an abortion and “imposes strict scrutiny on all our abortion laws.”

“I think the Iowa Supreme Court got it wrong. But after this decision and because of Planned Parenthood’s legal maneuverings, I see no path to successfully appeal the district court’s decision or to get this lawsuit before the US Supreme Court,” Reynolds said in the statement.

“Rather than be distracted by a losing legal battle, now is the time to renew our focus on changing hearts and minds and to seek other ways to advance the cause of protecting the unborn in Iowa and around the nation. I’m proud to lead the most pro-life state in the country and remain firm in my belief that all human life is precious,” she said.

Governor says a beating heart indicates life

The bill was halted from taking effect last summer after being challenged by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic.

Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert wrote in his decision striking down the law January 22 that its defenders didn’t identify a compelling state interest in barring most abortions after a fetus’ heartbeat can be found, The Des Moines Register reported last month.

At the time, Reynolds said she was disappointed by the ruling “because I believe that if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then a beating heart indicates life.”

A fetal heartbeat can be found as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Some legislators who supported the law said in May they hoped it would lead to a legal battle that reaches the Supreme Court. Emboldened by the court’s new conservative majority, they said they thought it would help overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the right to an abortion in all 50 states.

But Huppert’s decision — which came 46 years to the day after the Roe v. Wade decision — earned the praise of abortion-rights advocates.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for every Iowan who has ever needed or will need a safe, legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s medical director, Dr. Jill Meadows, said in a January statement.

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