On June 28, 2024, Iowa’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s heartbeat law which will take effect sometime in mid-July.

The decision reverses a lower court which applied a higher level of scrutiny to the law and put a temporary injunction in place to block its enforcement.

The heartbeat law will go into effect as soon as the case formally moves back to the lower court — which could be as soon as next week.

First Heartbeat Law

The Iowa legislature passed a heartbeat bill in 2018. While the law was being litigated, the state supreme court ruled in another case that abortion was a fundamental right and any law restricting it must pass the “strict scrutiny test.”

The strict scrutiny test is the highest standard of review and requires that a law be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.

Applying that standard, the state supreme court held that the 2018 heartbeat law violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution.

Change in the Court

The change in the court’s opinion from the first heartbeat law to today’s heartbeat law can be traced to a shift in the composition of the court.

As justices of the seven-member court needed replacement, more legally conservative individuals were appointed to the state supreme court.

In 2022, right before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, the Iowa Supreme Court with its new members held that there is no support for abortion as a fundamental constitutional right in Iowa.

Because abortion was no longer considered a fundamental right it did not have to meet the strict scrutiny test any longer.

Second Heartbeat Law

Following Roe’s reversal, in 2023, Iowa’s legislature met in a special session to pass a second heartbeat law. This is the law that was just considered by the Iowa Supreme Court.

The lower court applied the “undue burden” test to the law, but the supreme court held that the appropriate standard of review is the “rational basis” test.

Applying the rational basis test the court concluded, “the fetal heartbeat statute is rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest in protecting unborn life” and is therefore constitutional.

Why It Matters

Pro-life laws are saving lives across the nation.

As reported by National Review, a study by the Institute of Labor Economics found that in the first six months of 2023, pro-life laws saved 32,000 babies from abortion.

Under current Iowa law, abortion is accessible until 22 weeks gestation.

When the heartbeat law goes into effect, as soon as next week, many more women and babies will be saved from the harms of abortion.

The pro-life community should celebrate this win for life and remain vigilant as the abortion industry is relentless. Preborn babies and their mothers are counting on us to continue to advocate for them and for a culture that protects life.

Related articles and resources:

Iowa Asks Court to Lift Order Blocking State’s Heartbeat Abortion Ban

Post-‘Roe’ America is Akin to Unworkable Missouri Compromise

Two Years Since ‘Roe’s’ Reversal and the Best is Yet to Come

UPDATE: Abortion Amendments on the Ballot


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