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Iowa Judge Temporarily Halts Abortion Ban, Allowing Legal Battle To Unfold

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(CTN NEWS) – An Iowa judge issued a temporary injunction on Monday, effectively halting the implementation of the state’s recent abortion ban, which sought to restrict most abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy.

This ruling comes shortly after Governor Kim Reynolds signed the legislation into law.

As a result of the judge’s decision, abortion in Iowa is currently permitted up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, allowing time for the courts to evaluate the constitutionality of the new statute.

Under the newly enacted law, abortions are prohibited once cardiac activity is detectable, typically occurring at around six weeks of pregnancy, often before many women are aware of their pregnancy.

Iowa Abortion Ban Faces Legal Challenge as Judge Considers Temporary Injunction

In an extraordinary special session last week, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the bill, prompting a legal challenge from organizations including the ACLU of Iowa, Planned Parenthood North Central States, and the Emma Goldman Clinic.

Judge Joseph Seidlin presided over a hearing on Friday but reserved his decision, coinciding with Governor Reynolds signing the bill into law nearby.

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Abortion providers raced against the clock last week, scheduling as many appointments as possible before the governor’s signature.

They made countless preparatory calls to patients, bracing them for the uncertain situation and extending clinic hours.

Responding swiftly, Governor Reynolds issued a statement emphasizing her determination to pursue the matter to the state Supreme Court and defend the legislation.

“The abortion industry’s ongoing attempt to impede the will of Iowans and the voices of their elected representatives persists,” she expressed.

According to the Monday ruling, although the law is temporarily suspended, the state’s Board of Medicine is directed to proceed with formulating enforcement regulations as specified by the law.

This approach aims to provide clear guidance to healthcare providers in the event that the law is reinstated in the future.

The law does allow for certain circumstances where abortion may be permitted after the detection of cardiac activity during pregnancy:

instances of rape if reported to law enforcement or a healthcare provider within 45 days; cases of incest, if reported within 145 days; situations where the fetus has a fetal abnormality that is “incompatible with life”; or when the pregnancy endangers the life of the pregnant woman.

Judge Seidlin clarified that his decision today is based on the “undue burden” test, which constitutes an intermediate level of scrutiny. This test ensures that laws do not impose significant obstacles to accessing abortion services.

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Iowa Judge Grants Temporary Injunction on Abortion Ban as Legal Battle Ensues

In his statement, Seidlin noted that the state Supreme Court, in its recent decisions on the matter, acknowledged that the “undue burden” standard remains in effect and extended an invitation to further litigation.

Seidlin viewed this as an opportunity to engage in the contemplated legal dispute.

Applying this standard, it appears that abortion advocates are justified in asserting that the new law infringes upon the constitutional rights of Iowans, leading Seidlin to grant the temporary injunction.

State lawyers argued, and are likely to continue arguing, that the law should be subjected to rational basis review, which is the lowest level of scrutiny in evaluating legal challenges.

“We are profoundly relieved that the court has granted this relief, ensuring that essential healthcare in Iowa can continue,” expressed Abbey Hardy-Fairbanks, the medical director of the Emma Goldman Clinic based in Iowa City.

“However, we are acutely aware that this relief is only temporary, pending further litigation, and the future of abortion in Iowa remains uncertain and under threat.”

In the past year, many states under Republican leadership have significantly restricted access to abortion following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, thereby granting states authority over abortion legislation.

Over a dozen states have enacted bans with limited exceptions, while Georgia prohibits abortion once cardiac activity is detected.

Similar restrictions are currently on hold in several other states, awaiting court rulings, as is now the case in Iowa.

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