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DES MOINES — There is no legal precedent for the Iowa courts to reinstate a court-halted law that would restrict abortion access, a state advocacy organization is arguing in court.
The ACLU of Iowa this week filed the legal brief, which argues there is no precedent for Gov. Kim Reynolds’ request that the state courts lift their injunction and allow the state to implement the so-called fetal heartbeat law that Reynolds and statehouse Republicans passed in 2018.
The ACLU argues in its filing that the state’s motion to reinstate the law is not permitted by Iowa procedural rules, and “would take away the right of Iowans to obtain pre-viability abortions, in violation of current Iowa Supreme Court precedent.”
“There is no basis for disturbing the permanent injunction issued by this Court nearly four years ago,” the ACLU of Iowa argues in the brief.
A state judge in 2019 ruled the 2018 law unconstitutional and placed on it an injunction, which stopped the law from being implemented.
In June, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned its previous ruling on a different abortion restriction, in essence eliminating its previous ruling that access to abortion services is a fundamental right in Iowa.
The U.S. Supreme Court around the same time also overturned its landmark, decades-old ruling that had made abortion access a national right.
Those rulings cleared the way for new abortion restrictions in Iowa, and Reynolds in August filed her request that the state courts remove that injunction and allow the 2018 law to go into effect.
“Following (the Iowa and U.S. Supreme Court rulings), no right to an abortion exists under the state or federal constitution,” that legal brief argues. “Strict scrutiny is no longer the test. And the viability line is no more. This Court thus has a duty to vacate its injunction so Iowa can enforce its validly enacted law.”
The so-called fetal heartbeat law proposes to ban abortions at roughly six weeks of pregnancy, which often is before the individual is aware they are pregnant. However, medical experts say ultrasounds at six weeks cannot detect a heartbeat because the heart is not yet formed, but instead at that point detects electrical pulses.
In its new brief, the ACLU argues that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling does not impact the Iowa Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution, and thus has no effect on the injunction placed on the 2018 law.
The ACLU also disputes Reynolds’ legal argument that the injunction should be lifted because of a change in legal circumstances — in other words, the recent Iowa and U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
“This argument fails because (1) there is no basis in Iowa law to apply this doctrine to a permanent injunction, particularly a permanent injunction in place to protect a recognized constitutional right and (2) even if there were a basis, the State has not justified modifying this permanent injunction,” the ACLU argues in its brief.
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