Reynolds asks court to lift injunction against Iowa’s fetal-heartbeat law

By: - August 11, 2022 2:13 pm

Attorneys for Gov. Kim Reynolds are asking an Iowa judge to lift a 2019 injunction blocking enforcement of the state’s fetal-heartbeat law. (Photo by ericsphotography/Getty Images)

Attorneys for Gov. Kim Reynolds announced plans Thursday to file a court brief asking an Iowa judge to lift a 2019 injunction blocking enforcement of the state’s fetal-heartbeat law.

In a brief scheduled to be filed in the Iowa District Court for Polk County, a Virginia organization that calls itself the Alliance Defending Freedom cites the Iowa Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning its prior opinion that there is a state constitutional right to an abortion, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The alliance argues that those rulings necessitate the lifting of the district court’s previous injunction, which would clear the way for Iowa’s fetal-heartbeat law to take effect.

In 2019, the district court ruled that because that law prohibited some abortions, it violated “the due process and equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution.”

Given the more recent rulings by the higher courts, the alliance now argues, “no right to an abortion exists under the state or federal constitution … This court thus has a duty to vacate its injunction so Iowa can enforce its validly enacted law.”

The law in question was approved by Iowa state lawmakers in the spring of 2018, and it requires physicians to perform an ultrasound before an abortion “to determine if a fetal heartbeat is detectable.”

The law prohibits “an abortion upon a pregnant woman when it has been determined that the unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat, unless, in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment, a medical emergency exists, or when the abortion is medically necessary.”

The notice of the petition drew criticism from Iowa Democratic leaders.

“Gov. Reynolds and GOP lawmakers will not stop until there is a complete abortion ban in Iowa. It’s just politics for them and they’ve forgotten about how this will impact Iowans,” Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said in a statement.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn said in a statement: “The majority of Iowans agree that abortion should be legal and this move by Kim Reynolds is against the will of the people and voters will hold her accountable in November.”

Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior counsel, Denise Harle, said Thursday the organization is “pleased to work alongside Gov. Reynolds to help defend Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law.”

Assisting the alliance in pursuing the case is Alan Ostergren of the Muscatine-based Kirkwood Institute, an organization that has been pursuing what it calls a “conservative” agenda through litigation against the state, school districts and other governmental entities.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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