Iowa Supreme Court hears arguments on six-week abortion bill

Iowa Supreme court to hear six week abortion ban arguments

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(ABC 6 News) – The Iowa Supreme Court heard its final oral arguments of the 2023-2024 term on Thursday, saving its most anticipated and controversial case for last.

Attorneys argued for and against upholding the so-called “heartbeat bill;” a law which seeks to ban most abortions after six-weeks, when cardiac activity can first be detected.

Arguments focused on what standard of scrutiny justices should apply to the law, to determine constitutionality and decide whether it violates a person’s fundamental rights.

The heartbeat bill was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds in July of 2023.

However, it was blocked almost immediately by a district court judge until the justice system could determine the constitutionality of the law.

RELATED: Judge waits to rule on hearing to postpone Iowa abortion ban

“Abortion bans disproportionately affect women and there are guarantees for women’s equality in the Iowa constitution,” said Peter Im, staff attorney for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Opponents of the abortion ban argue it places an undue burden on Iowans, violating their rights to make their own medical decisions and decide if and when to have kids.

“Autonomy and dominion over one’s own body go to the very heart of what it means to be free,” Im said in court.

Proponents of the heartbeat bill argue the ban protects life.

“We want as much legislation as possible to save as many babies as possible,” said Kristi Judkins, Executive Director of anti-abortion organization Iowa Right to Life.

Attorneys for the state called on Supreme Court justices to protect unborn life by adopting the least restrictive standard for determining constitutionality.

“It should apply its precedence under the Iowa constitution and the due process clause, and it should apply rational basis review,” said Eric Wessan from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.

Wessan argued rational basis review is the best standard, as the six-week ban does allow for exceptions in cases of rape, incest or risk to the life of the mother.

“Obviously, if the life of the mother is threatened, then we would support whatever medical care would preserve her life,” said Judkins.

However, Im says there are still too many hurdles under the ban for those unable to get an abortion within those first six weeks.

“They might self-manage their abortion outside the medical system, they might have to leave the state or they would be forced to carry the pregnancy to term against their will,” said Im.

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to release its decision on this case at the end of the term in June.