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Heartbeat Update: 62 legislators join TFL Supreme Court brief to save babies

DES MOINES, Iowa – On Monday, Feb. 20, The FAMiLY Leader filed an amicus – or “friend of the court” – brief with the Iowa State Supreme Court, signed by 62 Iowa state legislators, calling on the Court to reinstate Iowa’s Heartbeat Law, which would protect preborn babies from abortion when their heartbeat can be detected.

Notably, another 16 Iowa senators joined a concurrent brief filed by Iowa Sen. Jack Whitver, making 78 total legislators calling for Iowa’s Heartbeat Law to finally go into effect.

“I was absolutely thrilled by the response of these legislators,” said The FAMiLY Leader Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel Chuck Hurley, one of the chief attorneys on the amicus brief. “Our team feverishly worked texts and emails to gather signatures, as legal briefs typically have a tight turnaround, and we witnessed lawmakers working right up to the last minute to get their names added.

“I count it a great honor and privilege to represent so many lawmakers,” Hurley continued. “Our legislators have a huge stake in the standard by which laws protecting preborn babies’ lives are handled by the court – and a huge stake in defending our Founders’ principle of the separation of powers. Though recent courts have asserted greater power over legislative and executive actions, the early history of our Founders’ intent is clear, and I have a good feeling this Supreme Court will get this case right.”

Iowa’s Heartbeat law was originally passed in 2018, but it was blocked by injunction after the Iowa Supreme Court that same year asserted a “strict scrutiny” standard on laws limiting abortion. The Court’s “strict scrutiny” standard, however, was subsequently overturned by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2022, opening the door to reconsidering enforcement of Iowa’s Heartbeat Law.

What’s more, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs case in 2022 overturned a lesser, “undue burden” standard that was invented by the federal Casey decision in 1992.

At issue before the Iowa Supreme Court currently is whether the Court will adopt the now-defunct “undue burden” standard, which would place challenging and confusing limits on how Iowa can legislate abortion, or the “rational basis” standard, which opens the door to stricter abortion protections for preborn children.

The FAMiLY Leader’s amicus brief was developed in cooperation with attorney Jacob Phillips and relies heavily on the legal work of Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and others, which was instrumental in overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey at the federal level.

“The undue burden standard is fraught with problems,” TFL’s brief asserts. “Aside from its lack of textual or historical support, it suffers from severe unworkability. Its nebulous nature invites judicial policy making and an endless battle between the judicial branch and the elected branches of government.”

“This Court should learn from the path federal courts have trod,” the brief continues. “As the U.S. Supreme Court recently held in Dobbs, abortion-related regulations, such as the fetal heartbeat law at issue here, should be subject to rational basis review.”

Over the next few months, Iowa Supreme Court justices and their clerks will pour over all submitted briefs in the case, including The FAMiLY Leader’s. The Court will then hear oral arguments in the case on Tuesday, April 11, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Oral arguments are open to the public, but seating is very limited, and attendees are encouraged to arrive early to secure a seat.


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