“Heartbeat” law temporarily blocked

Pro-life supporters attend a “40 Days for Life” rally at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City in this file photo.

A Polk County District Court judge on July 17 granted a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the new “heartbeat” law. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the law July 14 and it was in force over the weekend, said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference. The law prohibits most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy. Currently abortion is legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

While expressing disappointment about the temporary injunction, Chapman said the judge’s order allows the Iowa Board of Medicine to proceed with rulemaking for the law. “I anticipate the dispute will end up in the Iowa Supreme Court over the next year or two,” Chapman said.

Responding to the court’s decision, Gov. Reynolds issued a statement July 17, stating, “In their own words, the abortion industry stressed the need for a temporary injunction so they could continue with 200 scheduled abortions in the next two weeks. While life was protected for a few days, now even more innocent babies will be lost.”

“The abortion industry’s attempt to thwart the will of Iowans and the voices of their elected representatives continues today, but I will fight this all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court where we expect a decision that will finally provide justice for the unborn.”


Abortion advocates filed the legal challenge July 12, just hours after the Iowa Legislature passed the bill and that Gov. Reynolds signed into law two days later. In its legal challenge, the ACLU of Iowa said, “HF 732 bans abortion before many people know they are pregnant and is virtually identical to a 2018 law blocked by the Iowa Supreme Court just weeks ago.” The bill “violates Iowans’ constitutional rights to abortion and substantive due process. The ban also violates the Iowa Constitution’s Inalienable Rights Clause, which explicitly guarantees those rights to women and guarantees equal protection under state law.” The ACLU, together with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, filed the challenge in district court.

In her July 14 statement as she prepared to sign the new law, Gov. Reynolds said, “This week, in a rare and historic special session, the Iowa legislature voted for a second time to reject the inhumanity of abortion and pass the fetal heartbeat bill.” The “passage of this legislation — an even wider margin this time — sends an unmistakable message: Iowa’s 2018 heartbeat law was not ‘hypothetical’ or an empty gesture, and it was not a mistake. It was an ironclad commitment to the smallest and most vulnerable among us. All life is precious and worthy of the protection of our laws.”

Iowa’s bishops issued a statement July 13 stating, “We commend the Iowa Legislature for passing a law that would prohibit abortions after a child’s cardiac activity can be detected. As Pope Francis has said, ‘Let us respect and love human life, especially vulnerable life in a mother’s womb.’ For us, this is a matter of personal rights and dignity and the common good. Human life is precious and should be protected in our laws to the greatest extent possible.”

“As a state and as a society, we should commit ourselves to working for the protection of all vulnerable populations from violence — wherever individuals and groups are at risk,” the bishops continued. “We urge people of good will in Iowa both to work for an end to the practice of abortion and to join us in tireless, unremitting and compassionate solidarity with pregnant women in distress, with the men who fathered these children, and with families in need.”

The bill bans abortions in the sixth week of pregnancy but includes exceptions for the life of a mother, miscarriages, and fetal abnormalities deemed by a physician to be “incompatible with life.” The bill also includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. For these exceptions to apply, the rape must have been reported to law enforcement or a public or private health agency — which includes a family doctor — within 45 days and the incest must have been reported to any of these officials or entities within 140 days.

The vote was 56-34 in the House and 32-17 in the Senate. House Democrats proposed amendments, which failed, to make abortion legal with no exceptions for pregnant girls under 12 years of age and to remove reporting requirements for rape and incest. “It was a tough loss for us in the statehouse last night,” said Rep. Jennifer Konfrst. “Our ability to stop legislation like this is limited with only 36 Democrats in the House. But we can’t give up.”

The legislature passed a similar law in 2018, which was challenged in the courts and never enforced. Last month, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a 2019 district court ruling that blocked the law in a 3-3 decision. Justice Dana Oxley — a Reynolds appointee — recused herself from the June 16 decision because her former law firm represented an abortion clinic that was a plaintiff in the original case.

During a public hearing held hours before the new bill’s passage, the Iowa Catholic Conference Associate Director Sara Eide emphasized the importance of working to protect “All vulnerable populations from violence — wherever we find them…. We must address the ‘real and perceived’ inconveniences and challenges of having a baby by supporting women and meeting their needs. We must do the hard work — and address the economic structures that make it difficult for women and new moms to thrive in our culture. We must celebrate and support new life and motherhood and families.”

Sheryl Schwager, executive director of Johnson County Right to Life, believes many lives will be saved with enforcement of the law. “The very name of the bill serves to raise awareness about the beating hearts of preborn Iowans who are very much alive in the womb and deserving of legal protection. We look forward to educating our community about the resources available to women that honor their womanhood and motherhood.”

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *