Reynolds Will Not Appeal Court Ruling Striking Down Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Law

Feb 18, 2019

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday she will not appeal a decision by a Polk County judge that struck down the fetal heartbeat abortion law and declared it unconstitutional.

“This was an extremely difficult decision, however it is the right one for the pro-life movement and the state of Iowa,” said Reynolds, who signed the bill into law last May. It would have banned almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detected, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, according to opponents of the law.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the ACLU of Iowa and the Emma Goldman Clinic challenged the law in court.

District Court Judge Michael Huppert ruled in their favor on January 22. His ruling was largely based on a June 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that found the Iowa Constitution protects abortion as a fundamental right.

Reynolds said that Iowa Supreme Court ruling changed everything.

“After this decision and because of Planned Parenthood’s legal maneuverings, I see no path to successfully appeal the district court’s decision or to get this lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court,” Reynolds said in a statement.

ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer said in a statement he’s glad politicians have not been successful in implementing the law.

“We’re glad that politicians are recognizing what we have known all along—that the Iowa Constitution has strong protections for women’s rights, including abortion access, and that attempts to seriously erode those rights will be struck down,” Stringer said.

House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Urbandale, said the fetal heartbeat law was important to House Republicans.

“They want to protect unborn life, so anything that is counter to that goal is frustrating and disappointing,” Hagenow said when he learned of the governor’s decision. “But we want to make sure we do this the right way. And I know that there are certainly reasons that could be appropriate to not challenge this at this time.”

Senate Republicans advanced a proposed constitutional amendment earlier this month that says the Iowa Constitution does not protect a right to abortion. Hagenow said Republican representatives as a group have not fully considered that path yet.

Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, was a leading supporter of the fetal heartbeat abortion law. She said she is disappointed that the law can't move forward. 

"I trust the governor's judgment," Salmon said in a statement Monday.