On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Polk County District Court ruled that Iowa’s 6-week abortion ban (the Heartbeat bill) violates the Iowa state constitution. The court issued a permanent injunction.
According to the court’s ruling, the statue would have banned abortion prior to viability.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for every Iowans who has ever needed or will need a safe, legal abortion,” said Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Medical Director Jill Meadows, M.D. “At Planned Parenthood, we’re here to provide nonjudgmental support and factual, medically accurate information so that every patient can make their own personal decision about a pregnancy based on their own values, desires and needs, without political interference.”
State Senator Jake Chapman (R-Adel) said Jan. 22, 2019 will go down as a day of disappointment for Iowa.
“It’s a disappointing day in Iowa’s history and as policy makers I’m just calling on my colleagues to do the right thing and uphold our oath of office to protect and defend the constitution and the people,” Chapman said.
“That includes all people — unborn and born. We have a real opportunity to do that. I cannot express enough my disappointment in our judicial branch and the activism that occurs.”
Tim Overlin, the Executive Director of Personhood Iowa, said he was hopeful Judge Michael Huppert would just be willing to give the bill a hearing and acknowledge the maybe the court had gotten previous decisions wrong.
“This wasn’t to throw the case out,” Overlin said. “We were just asking to have a hearing.”
It’s yet another blow for the pro-life movement at the judicial level.
“We keep hanging our hats on what one or a handful of unelected folks in black robes say,” Overlin said.
“It’s the epitome of an oligarchy. You have a handful of people making the decision for everybody else. It’s not even representative government. These are unelected judges making these calls.”
Overlin cited the success of Republicans at the state level as proof Iowans support the measure.
“This is a law that was passed in both chambers and the governor signed it,” he said. “In a year of a blue wave, the floor managers and many of the people most vocal about this legislation were re-elected. Even the governor who signed it in a blue wave won. We retained both chambers. Now we have one guy overturn all of that because he’s deferring to five other guys who already overreached on another decision.”
Chapman shared Overlin’s optimism that at least a hearing would be allowed.
“I was very optimistic,” he said. “This is a summary judgment. There are a lot of facts in question that Planned Parenthood alluded to in their brief that certainly should have been permitted to at least have a trial on this.”
The bill prohibited abortion upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat. It did include exceptions for medical emergencies or when the abortion is medically necessary — including rape and incest exceptions.
“The focus of the respondents’ factual challenge to the motion revolves around at what stage of a pregnancy is a fetal heartbeat detectable,” said the court ruling. “While conceding that a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, the respondents contend that such detection is ordinarily not detected until later, especially when using an abdominal ultrasound as mandated by the statute.
“Regardless of when precisely when a fetal heartbeat may be detected in a given pregnancy, it is undisputed that such cardiac activity is detectable well in advance of the fetus becoming viable.”
Those defending the Heartbeat bill in court did not challenge the argument of viability.
“The respondents contend that ‘viability…(is not) material to this case,'” read the court decision. “To the contrary, viability is not only material to this case, it is dispositive on the present record.”
Judge Huppert referenced the recent Iowa Supreme Court decision that found a woman had a right to terminate her pregnancy under the Iowa Constitution. Not just a right, but a fundamental right.
The court ruling refutes Martin Cannon’s argument, the lawyer who defended the Heartbeat bill. It states the respondents argued the Heartbeat bill did not impose a ban on abortions, it only created a window of opportunity for women to receive an abortion.
“This argument is nothing more than an attempt to repackage the undue burden standard rejected by the Iowa Supreme Court in PPH II,” read the court ruling. “The respondents’ argument, by acknowledging the admittedly narrow amount of time afforded women under the statute, ‘would relegate the individual rights of Iowa women to something less than fundamental.’
“In actuality, the argument would probably require women to engage in a level of diligence resembling something along the lines of ‘moving heaven and earth,’ a type of restriction the Iowa Supreme Court found to be antithetical to the notion of a fundamental right.”
Chapman disagrees with the Supreme Court and Judge Huppert.
“You couldn’t come up with a more grossly misinterpreted decision on our constitution,” he said. “It just is a fabricated right that they have come up with. We’re not talking about the United States Constitution — Roe v. Wade. We’re talking about the Iowa Constitution.
“They have some how construed some imaginary right within our constitution that simply does not exist. It’s imperative we get a constitutional amendment put in place.”
That task begins shortly.
“That’s what I’m going to do within the next couple of days hopefully,” he said. “We’ll have a bill, a resolution on the constitutional amendment.”
What that will look like isn’t certain, but it has to be considered the next step.
“I’m going to get with some other supporters and we’re going to have that conversation,” Chapman said. “Clearly we need to make sure we’ve got the support to get it passed. I want to make sure we have something that will pass the voters as well. Even the Des Moines Register had a poll two years ago that showed a majority of Iowans support life at conception.
“I’ve always been a Personhood guy, I personally believe life does begin at conception, but at the same time we’re talking about a constitutional amendment here. We need to make sure we’ve got the votes to get it passed and get it to the voters.”