Iowa Attorney General Considering Defense of Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Bill

May 3, 2018

UPDATE: Governor Kim Reynolds signed the fetal heartbeat abortion bill at 3:00 p.m. today (Friday).

As Iowans wait to see if Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds will sign the fetal heartbeat abortion bill into law, Iowa’s attorney general is deciding if he would defend the law in court.

The Iowa House and Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would become the strictest abortion law in the country if Reynolds signs it into law. Supporters and opponents of the law acknowledge it would likely face an immediate court challenge because it appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that affirms a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, told reporters Wednesday he has not yet decided if his office would defend the “fetal heartbeat” abortion bill.

“If we feel that it’s, you know, very clearly unconstitutional, that’s something we do factor in,” Miller said.

He said his office defends state laws in the “vast majority of cases.”

“That’s our main role and responsibility, even if we don’t agree with the policy,” Miller said. “But here we’re looking at whether this would be one of the rare exceptions.”

The bill would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The attorney general’s office defended a different abortion law before the Iowa Supreme Court earlier this year. Miller said that case, which is a dispute over a 72-hour abortion waiting period, is “much closer to current litigation and current standards” than the fetal heartbeat bill.