Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, a Republican, signed a strict abortion ban into law Friday, even as a judge heard arguments to suspend it.
Ms. Reynolds pledged to sign the measure, which was passed this week by the Legislature. It was immediately challenged in Polk County court by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, and on Friday those groups were in court seeking to temporarily block the law while their legal case moved forward.
The new law bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant. It takes effect immediately, and dramatically changes access to abortion in the state.
“As we gather here today – and at this very moment – the abortion industry is in court trying to stop this law from going into effect and to stop the will of the people again,” Ms Reynolds said at the signing.
Pam Jochum, the Democratic leader of the Iowa Senate, called the law a “dangerous attack on Iowa women” on Friday and said she looks forward to “Iowa courts blocking this law.”
Why It Matters
The change now adds Iowa to a Republican-led list of states that have moved to ban or severely limit the procedure since the Supreme Court struck down the nation’s right to abortion last year, returning the matter to the states to set policy.
The ban also closes another area of access for women in the region, as nearby states including Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota also have abortion bans.
More than a dozen states now have bans that prohibit most abortions after conception or very early in pregnancy.
After the state’s previous six-week ban was blocked when a deadlocked Iowa Supreme Court left it unenforceable, Governor Reynolds called a special session on abortion.
Lawmakers returned to the State Capitol and passed an almost identical set of restrictions on the procedure. Iowa abortion rights providers and advocates filed suit on Wednesday within hours of the passage of the parliament, saying that it was unconstitutional under the standard of “undue burden.”
The session further cemented Iowa’s sharp political shift to the right, and ended its increasingly rare status as a Republican-led state where abortions are allowed up to 20 weeks post-fertilization, or about 22 weeks into pregnancy.
The legislation assumes that this is approximately six weeks of pregnancy. The legislation includes exceptions after that point in cases of rape or incest, when the woman’s life is in serious danger or she faces a risk of certain permanent injuries, or when fetal abnormalities “incompatible with life” are present.
If abortion rights activists prevail in court, the law could be suspended at least temporarily while the legal case proceeds.
Joseph Seidlin, a district judge in Polk County, said he would not rule on Friday, even as abortion rights groups said the law would lead to immediate harm.
Mr Seidlin said the decision required “strong and long attention”, and making an immediate decision from the bench would be perceived as a complex decision.
“I can’t think of anything that would be more insulting to either side,” he said.