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The strictest abortion law in the country was just temporarily blocked

The law bans women from getting abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is long before many know they're pregnant.

by Carter Sherman
Jun 1 2018, 4:30pm

The strictest abortion law in the United States is on hold — for now.

A judge ruled Friday to block the Iowa law, which essentially bans women from getting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, as a lawsuit over its constitutionality winds its way through the courts. Lawyers representing Iowa agreed to the temporary hold on the law, which was scheduled to go into effect July 1.

Technically, the law would ban women from getting abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. But that can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, which is long before most women even know they’re pregnant.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic sued Iowa just days after state lawmakers passed the ban in May. But the legal challenge was far from unexpected.

In fact, conservative legislators hope the fight over the law will travel all the way to the Supreme Court and upend Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

“We at the state legislatures, especially Republican-controlled legislatures, have a responsibility to kind of reload,” Republican state Sen. Rick Bertrand told the New York Times shortly after voting for the law. “We need to create vehicles that will allow the Supreme Court possibly to reach back and take this case, and to take up an anti-abortion case.”

Interestingly, Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit was filed in Polk County District Court, a state court, and argues that the ban is unconstitutional under Iowa’s state constitution. That move, as the Des Moines Register pointed out, may be an effort to keep the case out of the purview of the U.S. Supreme Court, which cannot review state supreme court decisions that tackle challenges to state constitutions.

Cover image: Planned Parenthood supporters rally outside the Iowa Capitol Building, Friday, May 4, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Barbara Rodriguez)