Iowa governor opts not to appeal fetal heartbeat law ruling

Gov. Kim Reynolds called it an extremely difficult decision but the right one for the state.

Posted: Feb. 19, 2019 7:12 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa's governor said Monday she decided against appealing a judge's ruling last month that struck down Iowa's "fetal heartbeat" abortion law, which would have been the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the nation.

Gov. Kim Reynolds called it an extremely difficult decision but the right one for the state.

"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," said Reynolds, a Republican who signed the bill last May after a GOP-run Legislature passed it.

Some supporters hoped it would lead to a federal appeal ending with a more conservative leaning U.S. Supreme Court overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationally. However, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa challenged the law on state constitutional grounds only foreclosing a federal appeal.

Any appeal would have ended with the Iowa Supreme Court which last June struck down an earlier Iowa law that required a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. The court said in that ruling the state constitution guarantees women freedom to make their own health decisions including an abortion, noting that "autonomy and dominion over one's body go to the very heart of what it means to be free."

"The fact that this ruling will go without further legal challenge is a victory for every Iowan who has ever needed or will need a safe, legal abortion," said Erin Davison-Rippey, Planned Parenthood state executive director.

ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer said his organization is "proud of a Constitution that affirms a women's fundamental right, in consultation with her doctor and loved ones, to make one of the most difficult, personal decisions she'll ever make. Government has no place in that."

Judge Michael Huppert said last month the fetal heartbeat bill signed last May by Reynolds violated due process and equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution based on previous Iowa Supreme Court rulings.

The law would have banned an abortion once a fetal heartbeat was detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Reynolds said she's proud "to lead the most pro-life state in the country and remain firm in my belief that all human life is precious."

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