Judge Temporarily Blocks Iowa From Enforcing Nation's Strictest Abortion Ban

The "fetal heartbeat" law effectively bans women from receiving an abortion after six weeks.

A county judge in Iowa on Friday temporarily barred the state from enforcing an abortion law widely considered to be the strictest in the country, pending a potentially protracted legal battle.

Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed the bill into law last month, barring women from receiving an abortion if an ultrasound detects a fetal heartbeat, which usually appears about six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.

The same day, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union announced that they planned to sue the state. They filed the lawsuit on May 15, challenging the ban’s constitutionality.

District Court Judge Michael Huppert said he will issue a temporary injunction on Friday to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1. Both sides agreed to the temporary ban, with the lawsuit still pending.

Similar abortion bans around the country have also faced legal challenges.

Supporters of the legislation see the Iowa law as a stepping stone to potentially overturning the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision affirming a woman’s right to choose. Iowa is among numerous states that have passed or considered restrictive abortion laws in recent years, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies policies on reproductive rights.

The state is being represented by the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm based in Chicago. Last month, state Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, refused to defend the bill.

“The disqualification is based on the Attorney General’s determination that he could not zealously assert the state’s position because of his core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women,” Miller’s office wrote in a letter to the state’s executive council.

Women’s rights groups and medical professionals have said that Iowa’s law is too restrictive because some women do not even know they are pregnant at six weeks.