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

Clay Curtis
May 16, 2018

Two abortion providers represented by the American Civil Liberties Union sued Iowa on Tuesday, claiming its newly enacted fetal-heartbeat law that outlaws abortion in all but the earliest stages of pregnancy is unconstitutional.

The Iowa legislation, which does not go into effect until July 1, bans abortions once a fetus' heartbeat can be detected.

She added: "I understand and anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court, and that courts may even put a hold on the law until it reaches the Supreme Court".

Bettis said at a press conference Tuesday that the plaintiffs challenged the new law as violating the Iowa Constitution, and said it was appropriate to bring the case in state court because the "Iowa Supreme Court has been a stalwart protector of constitutional rights". Chapman and others hope U.S. Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents from Reagan to Trump will ignore 45 years of legal precedents and find the U.S. Constitution does not protect a woman's reproductive choices.

The law is evidence of the state's conservative shift after the 2016 election, when Republicans gained control of the Legislature and the governor's office for the first time in almost 20 years. With it, Iowa politicians have tried to ban virtually all abortions for women in our state. Democrat Tom Miller said the decision to remove his office from the case was based on a belief that the measure "would undermine rights and protections for women".

Chuck Hurley is chief counsel for the Family Leader, a faith-based group in Iowa that opposes abortion.

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"We've moved quickly to challenge this cruel and reckless law because it can not be allowed to take effect", Rita Bettis, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa, told a news conference.

"We think it's extreme and outrageous", said Francine Thompson, co-director of the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, the first outpatient abortion clinic in the state. That typically happens around the six-week mark, often before the woman knows she is pregnant.

The lawsuit is over the fetal heartbeat bill that Governor Kim Reynolds signed earlier this month.

The lawsuit names Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine as defendants.

There are some exceptions in the law. They are also asking the Polk County District Court to block the law from taking effect while the lawsuit plays out. A challenge against the 72-hour law is now pending before the Iowa Supreme Court. "The requirement of reporting rape within 45 days, for example, is completely out of touch with the reality that survivors of those horrendous crimes live with", she said.

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