An Iowa judge on Monday temporarily blocked the state’s “fetal heartbeat ban” just days after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the measure into law.
Iowa’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed the law last week in a rare, all-day special session. The law prohibits almost all abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.
Judge Joseph Seidlin held a hearing on the matter Friday but said he would take the issue under advisement — just as Reynolds signed the bill into law about a mile away.
Seidlin’s injunction means abortion is once again legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy while the courts assess the new law’s constitutionality.
Gov. Reynolds has said she would fight the issue all the way to the state Supreme Court.
“The abortion industry’s attempt to thwart the will of Iowans and the voices of their elected representatives continues today,” she said.
Monday’s ruling does specify that while the law is temporarily paused, the state’s Board of Medicine should proceed with creating rules for enforcement, as the law specifies. That way the guidance for health care providers would be well-defined if the law were to be in effect in the future.
The law permits abortion in certain circumstances: rape, if reported to law enforcement or a health provider within 45 days; incest, if reported within 145 days; if the fetus has a fetal abnormality “incompatible with life”; or if the pregnancy is endangering the woman’s life.
Lawyers for the state argued that the law should be analyzed using rational basis review, the lowest level of scrutiny to judge legal challenges.
“We are deeply relieved that the court granted this relief so essential health care in Iowa can continue,” said Abbey Hardy-Fairbanks, medical director of the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic, in a statement. “We are also acutely aware that the relief is only pending further litigation and the future of abortion in Iowa remains tenuous and threatened.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.