Gov. Reynolds Won’t Say When/If Her Office Will Challenge Fetal Heartbeat Ruling

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Governor Kim Reynolds says her office is still reviewing a ruling that declared one of the signature pieces of legislation from her first year in office unconstitutional.

On Tuesday a Polk County judge issued a summary judgement that declared the Fetal Heartbeat Bill signed into law in 2018 violates both the state and federal constitutions.  The bill banned any abortion after a fetal heartbeat was detected.  That could be as soon as six weeks into gestation.  The law was blocked by an injunction before it could take effect.  Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law.

The ACLU, in its arguments for the plaintiffs, asked Judge Michael Huppert to issue a summary judgement at a December hearing.  They say attorneys for the state, represented by the Thomas More Society, had failed to prove the law could pass even basic constitutional tests.  On Tuesday Huppert agreed and granted the judgement against the state.  Huppert said the bill violated the federal protections provided by the Rowe vs. Wade ruling.  He also argued that it is "undisputed" that a fetal heartbeat means the fetus is viable.

Governor Kim Reynolds argued against that assertion today.

"As I've said again and again if death is determined by when a heart stops beating then I believe that a beating heart indicates life," the Governor said on Wednesday.  However the Governor's reasoning is not based on the actual legal definition of "Death" in Iowa.  That definition holds that "Death" is determined by the "irreversible cessation of spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions."  A fetus does not develop fully functioning lungs until 36 weeks of gestation at the earliest, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

Governor Reynolds says she and her office are still reviewing Tuesday's ruling.  They can appeal it to the Supreme Court.

The ACLU says it is prepared for that possibility, but are confident that the law will again be on their side once again.

"Based on precedent there was a 2018 decision that the right to a safe and legal abortion is a fundamental right and cannot be legislated away," ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer says, "That's essentially what the court decided."

Yesterday's court ruling came on the 46th anniversary of the Rowe vs. Wade ruling.

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