Iowa Judge Strikes Down State’s Pro-Life Heartbeat Bill on Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

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A state judge ruled Tuesday, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, that Iowa’s “heartbeat bill” banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat is unconstitutional.

The bill was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) in May 2018, but was placed on hold after Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Emma Goldman Clinic sued the state. On Tuesday, Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert ruled against the state and declared the heartbeat bill to be “unconstitutional and therefore void.”

“In summary, it is undisputed that the threshold for the restriction upon a woman’s fundamental right to terminate a pregnancy (the detection of a fetal heartbeat) contained within Iowa Code chapter 146C constitutes a prohibition of previability abortions,” Huppert stated in his ruling. “As such, it is violative of both due process and equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution as not being narrowly tailored to serve the compelling state interest of promoting potential life.”

Huppert borrowed language from the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling against imposing a 72-hour waiting period on abortions, which he frequently cites throughout his decision. Like Huppert, the Iowa Supreme Court declared in its 2018 decision that “a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.”

“The Iowa Supreme Court expressly rejected the undue burden standard fashioned in Casey and held that any legislative restrictions on a woman’s fundamental right to decide to terminate a pregnancy should be measured solely by a strict scrutiny analysis,” Huppert wrote Tuesday.

Reynolds told The Des Moines Register that she was “incredibly disappointed in today’s court ruling.”

“Because I believe that if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then a beating heart indicates life,” she said.

The decision was celebrated by abortion advocates across the state, including Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for every Iowan who has ever needed or will need a safe, legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Medical Director Jill Meadows said in a press release. “We are pleased that especially today, on the 46th anniversary of the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, abortion care was upheld as a safe and legal part of basic reproductive health care.”

Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa legal director, said the ruling “upholds women’s freedom and equality in Iowa.”

“We are grateful the Court blocked Gov. Reynolds’ egregious attempt to ban safe, legal abortion in Iowa,” Planned Parenthood State Executive Director Erin Davison-Rippey said. “Planned Parenthood will continue to stand up for Iowa women and fight back against the Legislature’s attacks on reproductive health. We will do all we can to make sure abortion continues to be safe and legal in our state—no matter what.”

Huppert’s full decision can be read here.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to
Photo “Kim Reynolds (Left)” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-2.0.
Photo “Shannon Lundgren (Right)” by Shannon Lundgren. 
Background “Polk County Courthouse” by Stephen Matthew Milligan. CC BY-SA 3.0.







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One Thought to “Iowa Judge Strikes Down State’s Pro-Life Heartbeat Bill on Anniversary of Roe v. Wade”

  1. Anne Beal

    WHAT “fundamental right to terminate a pregnancy?”
    Where did they come up with that one? Same place they located the imaginary “right to privacy” in the US Constitution?

    There’s no such thing and the Patriot Act proves it.