Iowa judge to temporarily block ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion law

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(Reuters) – An Iowa judge on Friday will temporarily block a state law that would impose the strictest abortion limits in the United States, nearly two weeks after advocacy groups sued to block the law from going into effect in July, according to officials.

State officials agreed to the temporary injunction during a short court hearing with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa (ACLU), Planned Parenthood and the Emma Goldman Clinic, according to Becca Lee, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood.

“Both parties were in agreement for the effect of the temporary injunction, and that will go into effect immediately, and it will stay in place while the lawsuit proceeds,” Lee said in a phone interview, adding that Judge Michael Huppert would issue the temporary injunction later on Friday.

Rita Bettis, the legal director for the ACLU of Iowa, said the organization was ready to argue to protect women from the “dangerous” abortion ban.

“However, the state decided not to resist the temporary injunction, which was an outcome we are very satisfied with, because with the entry of that injunction, we were able to get everything we were asking for today,” she said in a statement.

A representatives for Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature voted in April to outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively banning the procedure at about the six-week mark, which may be before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

There are exceptions to the ban, including some cases of rape and incest and serious medical emergencies, but Planned Parenthood, whose services include abortions, and the ACLU say the exceptions are too narrow.

The advocacy groups on May 15 sued the state to stop the law, which was anticipated by some sponsors of the ban who hoped to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that established that women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

Last month, a spokeswoman for Reynolds said the governor expected the legal challenge from abortion advocates.

“We knew there would be a legal fight, but it’s worth having to protect innocent life,” Brenna Smith said in an email in May.

A 2017 Iowa law that requires a minimum 72-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion is also currently blocked while the Iowa Supreme Court decides whether to strike it down.

Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis



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