Iowa’s recently enacted Heartbeat Bill is one of the most forceful pro-life pieces of legislation in the United States, prohibiting almost all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected. However, the future of the new law is fuzzy after a judge granted a temporary injunction halting it from being enforced.
The injunction comes in response to a lawsuit questioning the law’s constitutionality. At a hearing on Friday, District Court Judge Michael Huppert stated that the temporary injunction he was granting would be in place while the suit continued.
“That resolves the uncertainty so that women in Iowa don’t have to live with that uncertainty of not knowing whether or not they’ll have abortion rights, come July 1,” stated Rita Bettis, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. The ACLU of Iowa is one of the parties representing the plaintiffs in the suit, joined by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Cedar Rapids firm Shuttleworth & Ingersoll (representing the Emma Goldman Clinic).
However, even though the injunction was requested by the parties filing the lawsuit, the lawyers representing the state readily agreed to it, raising no objections.
“For the sake of getting to a resolution on the merits sooner and better, we have agreed to essentially allow the bill to be put on hold while the court resolves this case on its merits,” stated Martin Cannon. Cannon is a lawyer for the Thomas More Society, a conservative organization which is representing the state.
Normally, the state would be represented by its attorney general. However, Attorney General Tom Miller is a staunch Democrat, so he disqualified his office from being the representation for the state, arguing that doing so would “would undermine rights and protections for women.”
If it goes into effect, the law would practically eliminate all abortions that occur about six weeks after conception. Since most women do not find out that they are pregnant until around that period of time, the ripple effect reaches further back than what the language of the law entails.
The law does not operate on a specific timeline like most abortion laws do, but, as the nickname explains, it would make it criminal to abort an unborn baby who has a detectable heartbeat. Exceptions are included within the bill, such as for cases of rape or for the health of the mother.
“In terms of next steps,” Bettis explained in a statement to NPR, “the attorneys defending this ban will have to file an answer to our petition, which is their opportunity to respond to our allegations.”