DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a six-week abortion ban into law Friday, sparking a new legal battle over the future of reproductive rights in the key presidential state. from the beginning, and further intensifying the presence of a divisive issue in the campaign.
Surrounded by a cadre of Republican state lawmakers and anti-abortion leaders, Reynolds signed the measure during a special onstage presentation at the Family Leadership Summit — a prominent political rally hosted by an evangelical Christian group.
“All life is precious and worthy of the protection of our laws,” Reynolds said at the signing ceremony, adding that the law represents “an ironclad commitment to the smallest and most vulnerable among us.”
The law went into effect the moment Reynolds signed the bill, but it could be short-lived.
Across town, in a Polk County district court, the state judge hearing a challenge filed by a group of reproductive rights groups seeking a temporary injunction, said he would need until next week to make a decision.
“This request requires my strong and long attention,” Polk County District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin said during the hearing. A decision is possible on Monday.
If the request for an emergency injunction is granted, the six-week ban would be frozen while the legal challenge unfolds through the court system.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, and the Emma Goldman Clinic, a women’s health care facility in Iowa City, filed the legal challenge in state court Wednesday afternoon, arguing that the new ban violates the Iowa state constitution. Group officials said they expected the case to go to the state Supreme Court.
Despite the legal challenge, Reynolds, along with a parade of Republican presidential candidates, celebrated the signing and predicted the new law would prevail.
“Our job is not done,” Reynolds said. “As we gather here today at this very moment, the abortion industry is in court trying to stop this law from coming into effect and to stop, once again, the will People.”
The measure includes exceptions for the life of the mother, miscarriages and fetal anomalies deemed by a doctor “incompatible with life”.
The bill also provides exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. For these exceptions to apply, the rape must have been reported to law enforcement or a “public or private health agency” – which includes a family doctor – within 45 days, and the incest must have been reported to one of these officials or entities within 140 days.
Reproductive rights advocates have said a six-week ban equates to a total ban because many women don’t even know they’re pregnant that early.
Reproductive rights groups had said that if the law went into effect immediately, abortion clinics and patients in the state would be scrambling. Planned Parenthood officials said clinics across the state remained open until 10 p.m. Thursday, providing care in anticipation of Friday’s signing.
Previously, abortion care was legal in Iowa until the 20th week of pregnancy.
Reynold’s choice of venue for his signing further cements the role the controversial abortion rights issue will play in presidential politics – both in the key early voting state and across the United States.
Attending Friday’s summit – moderated by conservative commentator Tucker Carlson – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, many of whom, at various points during the conference, praised Reynolds and his bill.
“Governor Kim Reynolds knocked it out of the park,” Haley said after the signing.
“We are here on a historic day in Iowa,” Pence said in a morning session, before the signing. He praised Reynolds for his plan to sign “into law historic protections for unborn children.”
Former President Donald Trump – who has been more reluctant to enact strict abortion bans during the campaign than some of his rivals – skipped the event.
While support for tougher abortion restrictions remains popular among conservative evangelical Christians — a key voting bloc in Republican caucuses in Iowa — polls in the state, as well as nationally, show that a majority of voters support the right to abortion.
And while aligning with a six-week ban might help a candidate in Iowa, it plays out differently in New Hampshire, the next 2024 primary contest.
The state’s libertarian-leaning GOP electorate tends to be more open on the issue; Gov. Chris Sununu, for example, is on a small list of GOP governors who support abortion rights.
These rocky paths underscore the struggles Republicans, more broadly, have endured to tell voters about abortion rights in the year since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade. . Part of the Democrats’ midterm success came from their ability to successfully use the abortion issue to go after Republicans.
Reynolds convened a special legislative session devoted exclusively to enacting “pro-life legislation” after the state Supreme Court this month issued a split decision that allowed an abortion ban by six weeks that lawmakers signed into law in 2018 to remain permanently blocked.
It took just 3 p.m. on Tuesday for Republicans in Iowa, who control the Legislature, to pass the new six-week ban.
While the new law already faces the same sort of legal challenges as the 2018 law, the outcome could be different this time around with a decision by the full state Supreme Court.
The court’s split decision last month on that 2018 law was a narrowly tailored decision based largely on procedural grounds, which means it remains possible – if not likely – that a full seven-member tribunal could find a legal consensus on a new ban. One of the court’s seven judges, Dana Oxley – a Reynolds appointee – recused herself because her former law firm represented an abortion clinic that was a plaintiff in the original case.
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com