In a recent controversial decision in Iowa, Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert ruled that Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law, which is the most restrictive abortion limit in the country, violates the Iowa Constitution and cannot be legally enforced. Citing the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in 2018 related to a different abortion restriction, the highest court held that a “woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.” Pro-choice advocates are thrilled with Judge Huppert’s ruling, and opposition to the ruling (pro lifer’s) will continue fighting through Iowa’s appellate court system.
Fetal Heartbeat Law
The controversial “fetal heartbeat” law was passed in May 2018 but had been on hold during legal challenges by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa. Judge Huppert’s nine-age ruling overturned the May 2018 law, which stated that abortion was illegal at the six-week mark—the time at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
What made the six-week mark law so upsetting to pro-choice advocates is that many women do not even know they’re pregnant at such an early stage. The six-week law was much more restrictive than other state laws that note the 24-week mark in pregnancy as the time a fetus is viable outside of the womb and should not be aborted.
In his lengthy ruling, Huppert wrote, “It is undisputed that such cardiac activity is detectable well in advance of the fetus becoming viable.” That a fetus is viable outside of the mother’s womb at 24 weeks is “widely considered the threshold to prohibit abortion” in the United States.
Attack on Roe v. Wade
The United States Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade of 1973, established that women have a constitutional right to abortion, and the Iowa legislation that Huppert ruled against was aimed at challenging that 1973 ruling—one of the most notable Supreme Court decisions in US history.
Iowa State Senator, Janet Petersen of Des Moines said the following in response to the Judge’s decision: “The extreme law should have been overturned because it restricted the freedom of Iowa women and girls to care for their bodies, and it forced motherhood on them.” She added that the Governor and legislative Republicans should stop attacking women’s health care.
The ultimate goal of those who opposed Judge Huppert’s decision is to get the case before the current United States Supreme Court, which has become more conservative under the Donald Trump Administration.
Clearly, it is no coincidence that Judge Huppert’s ruling was released on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide on Jan. 22, 1973. Governor Kim Reynolds, in response to Judge Huppert’s ruling, said she was “extremely disappointed” and further stated the Judge’s ruling would likely be challenged in the courts and may even be put on hold until it reaches the Supreme Court of the United States.