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Iowa's 'fetal heartbeat' abortion law blocked in court after Planned Parenthood, ACLU lawsuit

The abortion ban signed into law by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last month was temporarily blocked in court by a Polk County judge as lawsuits against the ban proceeded. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Last month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a bill ratifying one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation, banning most abortions after the fetal heartbeat can be detected. A judge blocked that law temporarily on Friday as lawsuits against the ban proceeded, NPR reported.

The state agreed to the injunction while a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union moves ahead. The two organizations believe the law is unconstitutional and harmful to women.

What's the story?

Iowa's abortion law bans all abortions after the fetal heartbeat can be detected, which effectively bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The law makes exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or to save the life of the mother. The law is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

Reynolds expected the legal challenge when she signed the law on May 4, saying that it was worth the potentially lengthy fight to protect the rights of the unborn.

"I understand and anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court, and that courts may even put a hold on the law until it reaches the Supreme Court," Reynolds said last month. "However this is bigger than just a law. This is about life. I am not going to back down from who I am or what I believe in."

Iowa Public Radio reporter Katarina Sostaric tweeted that the court proceedings could take months or longer.

What about Planned Parenthood and the ACLU?

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood claimed the injunction as a victory.

"Women in Iowa don't have to live with the burden of that uncertainty of knowing whether or not they'll have abortion rights come July 1," ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis said.

Bettis said the next step in the lawsuit is for the state to respond to the allegations made in the lawsuit.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, disqualified himself from defending Iowa against lawsuit over the law, saying he "could not zealously assert the state's position because of his core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women."

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