Groups sue to stop Iowa's 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban


On Tuesday, the ACLU of Iowa, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) and Iowa City's Emma Goldman Clinic filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court seeking to overturn the law and asking for an injunction to prevent it from going into effect.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, anticipated the legal challenge, a spokeswoman said. They say the state constitution, not the U.S. Constitution, guarantees a woman's right to abortion.

What backers of the fetal-heartbeat law may not have counted on was the move by plaintiffs to bring the action in state court rather than federal court, meaning the challenge to the law won't end up before the U.S. Supreme Court because the suit citing the state constitution can not be removed to federal court, according Rita Bettis, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa.

Lawmakers adopted several abortion restrictions in 2017, including a 20-week abortion ban and a requirement that women wait three days before ending a pregnancy.

"This abortion ban is beyond extreme", said legal director for ACLU of Iowa Rita Bettis in the statement.

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"The lawsuit was expected, and the growing pro-life movement isn't deterred by it", said Drew Zahn, director of communications for the Family Leader organization. "It's long overdue that America looked at the evidence and recognized that the little child in her mother's womb ... she's a baby".

Iowa's attorney general Tom Miller indicated that he would not defend the law because it "would undermine rights and protections for women", The AP reported.

"We will be represented by the Thomas More Society at no cost to taxpayers".

The legislation would require doctors to conduct an abdominal ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat. A heartbeat typically manifests at about six weeks into a pregnancy.

The bill does not specify criminal or civil penalties for those breaking the law.

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Planned Parenthood called the law "blatantly unconstitutional" and noted that many women don't even know they're pregnant at six weeks. It argues the new law violates the Iowa Constitution.

Thompson told reporters the new law would be an "almost-complete ban" on abortions, as only about 2 percent of the abortions at her clinic are performed at or before the sixth week of a pregnancy.

"The timing makes it an nearly complete ban on abortions in our state", said Emma Goldman Clinic Co-director Francine Thompson. "We want politicians out of women's lives and out of the exam room".

Abortion opponents hope such a lawsuit could bring the divisive abortion issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court in the belief that the 5-4 conservative majority could curtail abortion access or ban it outright.

Republicans in the Iowa legislature, who passed the abortion bill on a series of party-line votes, understood it would be challenged in court, and welcomed any challenge as a way of advancing policies at a national level.

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