(Des Moines, Iowa) Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert ruled that Iowa’s fetal heartbeat abortion ban signed into law in 2018 is unconstitutional.
The law banned all abortion with exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities after a fetal heartbeat is detected by ultrasound.
Huppert, in his decision, cited the recent Iowa Supreme Court opinion striking down the 72-hour waiting period. “(T) Iowa Supreme Court held that a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution, and that any governmental limits on that right are to be analyzed using strict scrutiny,” he wrote.
He said his opinion was also backed by a number of federal court opinions that have struck down abortion restrictions based on “arbitrary timelines” or the detection of a fetal heartbeat.
Huppert granted a temporary injunction in June to the petitioners, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the Emma Goldman Clinic, and Dr. Jill Meadows, preventing the law’s implementation.
Huppert was appointed to the bench in 1999 by former Governor Tom Vilsack. He was most recently retained in 2014 and will be up for retention in 2020.
“I am incredibly disappointed in today’s court because I believe that if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then a beating heart indicates life,” Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Pro-life legislators responded to the decision.
State Senator Jake Chapman (R-Adel) promised to file a constitutional amendment.
“I will be filing a constitutional amendment in the coming days. The decision by the Iowa Supreme Court in a previous ruling and the decision by this judge on this case is a gross misinterpretation of the Iowa Constitution,” Chapman posted on Twitter.
“Despite the decision today by a Polk County judge to rule the heartbeat bill unconstitutional, I’ll do everything I can as a state senator and pro-life advocate to protect the unborn. We must defend these lives,” State Senator Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) tweeted.
Martin Cannon, senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, represented Governor Kim Reynolds in court, he responded to the ruling.
“Despite the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision last year that abortion is a fundamental right, and despite yesterday’s trial court decision, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, that the heartbeat bill violates the Iowa Constitution, The Thomas More Society affirms the plain language of that constitution: ‘WE THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF IOWA, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of those blessings, …All men are, by nature, free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights – among which are those of enjoying and defending life…’ Despite the challenges in the Iowa judicial system, our clients and Thomas More Society attorneys will continue to defend unborn children and those who also defend them. We know that life begins at conception and a heartbeat means a living person is inside the mother’s womb,” he said.
The decision is expected to be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Read the decision below: