SC Lifts Block on “Fetal Heartbeat” Abortion Law of US State 

United States: A virtually polarized Iowa Supreme Court decided on Friday to vacate a restraining order preventing the implementation of the Iowa “fetal heartbeat” abortion law and eliminate other barriers to future limitation of abortions. 

More about the news 

Lately, there has been a series of legal cases concerning the position of abortion in Iowa. It comes after the Supreme Court in 2022 held that there is no “fundamental right” to abortion, and in the 2023 case, the Supreme Court was divided equally on what ought to be the correct legal yardstick for determining the constitutional’ legitimacy of judging the constitutionality of abortion laws. 

The law the court says can take effect prohibits most abortions after the point – which is approximately the sixth week of pregnancy – at which a fetal heartbeat or cardiac activity can be detected, except in a case of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk, as USA Today reported. 

SC Lifts Block on "Fetal Heartbeat" Abortion Law of US State. Credit | AP
SC Lifts Block on “Fetal Heartbeat” Abortion Law of US State. Credit | AP

More about SC’s decision 

Justice Matthew McDermott has determined Friday’s majority decision and is supported by Justices Dana Oxley, David May, and Christie McDonald. It said laws that prohibit abortions are unconstitutional if the state cannot provide a rational basis for it. 

This decision is that the order that blocks the authorities from enforcing the law will be vacated, and the case will be sent back to the district court. McDermott states that apart from the standing issue, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which is the lead plaintiff, “cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits”on the merits of the case under the new legal standards. 

The injunction will stay on until the district court formally receives the case, and that will take at least three weeks, the office of the Attorney General Brenna Bird said. 

For now, an Iowa law that began even before the fetal heartbeat statute will remain in force that permits abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy. 

Legal standards for abortion laws 

In its 2015 case ruling, the SC ordered that abortion restrictions were unconstitutional in case they put an “undue burden” on the rights of the mother. 

Moreover, the federal courts at the time also defined an undue burden as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability,” as USA Today reported. 

Later, in 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court even pointed to a new level and claimed that there is a fundamental right to abortion. However, in 2022, the court that was constituted with a more conservative-leaning overruled that particular decision. 

That paved the way to what the majority, in its decision on Friday, said was “rational basis” as the standard of review of the laws that put a limit on abortions. 

Under this system, it permits the state to place a limitation if it can offer a legitimate reason to do so – an interest that can be fairly characterized as compelling – in this case, the state’s interest in protecting the life of unborn children or if it fails to abridge a constitutionally enumerated right.