DES MOINES, February 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – In a reversal from her vow last year, Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday she would not be appealing a ruling that struck down the state’s contentious heartbeat abortion ban to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Last May, Reynolds signed into law a bill that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected (starting between 6-8 weeks), with exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and threats to a mother’s life. Planned Parenthood immediately moved to challenge it in court, while pro-life activist Rebecca Kiessling launched her own challenge to get the law’s exceptions removed.
Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert temporarily blocked it from being enforced in June, and last month he declared it unconstitutional, claiming the state failed to identify a compelling state interest and citing the Iowa Supreme Court’s declaration that “a woman's right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.”
In her Monday press release, Reynolds tried to argue the “extremely difficult decision” was ultimately “the right one for the pro-life movement and the state of Iowa.”
“When I signed the Fetal Heartbeat bill last May, we knew that it would be an uphill fight in the courts that might take us all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Reynolds explained. “But everything changed last June, when the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our 72-hour waiting period after concluding that the Iowa Constitution provides a right to an abortion and imposes strict scrutiny on all our abortion laws.”
The governor continued that she thinks the court was wrong, but sees “no path to successfully appeal the district court’s decision or to get this lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court” between the ruling and “Planned Parenthood’s legal maneuverings.”
“Rather than be distracted by a losing legal battle, now is the time to renew our focus on changing hearts and minds and to seek other ways to advance the cause of protecting the unborn in Iowa and around the nation,” she claimed.
The statement appears to conflict with Reynolds’ “pledge” last May to “do everything in my power to protect life,” because “it’s a fight worth fighting.”
Heartbeat bills have been introduced in multiple states despite banning abortion far earlier than Roe v. Wade’s “viability” threshold, with the express hope of forcing a review of the infamous 1973 ruling. “We created an opportunity to take a run at Roe v. Wade – 100 percent,” Republican state Sen. Rick Bertrand said of the Iowa bill last year. President Donald Trump has appointed two new justices, and while their positions on abortion aren’t known, pro-lifers hope they’ll vote to overturn Roe and restore states’ freedom to decide their own abortion policies.
The waiting period ruling complicates that strategy, however, by finding a “right” to abortion in the Iowa Constitution rather than Roe. In an interview last summer with LifeSiteNews, Kiessling warned pro-lifers that this was a rising pro-abortion strategy to insulate abortion-on-demand from whatever the future holds for Roe.
“They have been getting reasonable regulations overturned which would be upheld by the US Supreme Court, and they’re finding a broader right to abortion under state constitutions,” she said. “It's almost like the dirty little secret in the pro-life movement because it – reporting doom and gloom – doesn’t help raise funds […] I’m getting a flurry of emails now: ‘Kennedy’s retiring, we’re almost there, we’re so close to ending abortion!’ No we’re not. We’re not even close.”
In response to the ruling, pro-life Iowa lawmakers are currently working to put a state constitutional amendment before voters that would clarify the Iowa Constitution “does not secure or protect a right to abortion.” In the meantime, heartbeat bills currently working their way through the legislatures of Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, make it likely that the issue will still reach the nation’s highest court in the near future.