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Court set to rule on Iowa governor’s bid to reinstate strict abortion limits

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa court ruling expected Friday could outlaw most abortions in the state or keep the procedure legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, at least for now.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds aims to reinstate the blocked 2018 “fetal heartbeat” law that does not allow abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant. Currently, abortions are allowed up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Most Republican-led states have severely curtailed access to abortion in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court stripped women’s constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade and handing authority over the issue to states.

Reynolds signed the 2018 law despite state and federal court decisions at the time, including Roe, affirming a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. Planned Parenthood sued and a state judge blocked the law the following year. Reynolds did not appeal the decision at the time.

In a separate case, the Iowa Supreme Court decided last year to reverse an opinion saying the state’s constitution affirms a fundamental right to abortion. Roe was overturned a week later and Reynolds sought to dissolve the 2019 decision.

A state judge ruled last year that she had no authority to do so and Reynolds appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, which is now far more conservative than when the law was first passed. Reynolds appointed five of the court’s seven members.

The court on Thursday listed the abortion case among opinions likely to be filed Friday.

Although called a “fetal heartbeat” law, the measure does not easily translate to medical science. At the point where advanced technology can detect the first visual flutter, the embryo isn’t yet a fetus and does not have a heart. An embryo is termed a fetus eight weeks after fertilization.

The Iowa law contains exceptions for medical emergencies, including threats to the mother’s life, rape, incest and fetal abnormality.

Hannah Fingerhut And Scott Mcfetridge, The Associated Press

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