DES MOINES, Iowa (May 4, 2018) – Today, Iowa Gov. Reynolds signed a bill into law that bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat becomes detectable, setting the foundation to nullify the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

The Senate Human Resources Committee introduced Senate Bill 359 (SF359) in February. The legislation would require a woman wanting an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. If it picks up a fetal heartbeat, healthcare providers would be barred from performing an abortion. The proposed law makes an exception for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

The Senate gave final approval to SF359 by a 29-17 vote. The House passed the measure 51-46.

A fetal heartbeat can become detectable as early as six weeks. The proposed law would effectively ban most abortions in Iowa.

If the governor signs SF359, it will undoubtedly set up a confrontation between the state of Iowa and the federal government. The Supreme Court has held that states cannot regulate abortions before a fetus is “viable” – generally around 22 weeks.

Twenty states have banned abortions at 20 weeks or later. SF359 pushes the limits further. If put into effect, Iowa would have the strictest abortion restrictions in the United States.

in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Supreme reaffirmed the opinion in Roe v. Wade that a woman has an absolute right to an abortion until fetal viability while rejecting a trimester structure the court initially used to determine when states could regulate abortion. Current Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from regulating abortion before 24 weeks.

The opinion of Supreme Court judges notwithstanding, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to regulate abortions. This clearly falls within the objects James Madison said would remain with the state governments – “objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people.”

But in Roe v. Wade, the SCOTUS created a constitutional “right to privacy” out of thin air and enforced it on state governments through the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment. Justice Byron White captured the absurdity of the ruling in a blistering dissent.

“I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes.”

From a constitutional perspective based on the original meaning of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment, SF359 stands on solid constitutional ground. How it will play out in practice, remains to be seen.


ACLU and Planned Parenthood have announced that they will be suing to block the law from taking effect. It’s scheduled to go into effect in 90 days, excluding Saturdays and Sundays.

Mike Maharrey

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