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

Pro-choice groups challenge Iowa's strict abortion ban

The Iowa attorney general announced that he would not defend the law because it would undermine rights and protections for women.

Advocates of what is considered to be the most restrictive abortion law in the country, which Reynolds signed May 4, say they expected the legislation to be challenged in court and are hoping the ensuing legal battle will be a vehicle to overturn the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

The law is set to go into effect on July 1. "With it, Iowa politicians have tried to ban virtually all abortions for women in our state".

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.

Smith added that the state would be represented in the case by the Thomas More Society at no cost to taxpayers, a reference to a decision by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, not to defend the statute if challenged. "In the 45 years since Roe, no federal or state court has upheld such a unsafe law".

Iowa's "heartbeat" bill was passed by the Iowa House, 51-46, and the state Senate passed the bill 29-17 in early May, sending it to Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who has said abortion is "equivalent to murder". Reynolds signed Iowa's ban earlier this month and said at a public event in Davenport that she felt "very confident in moving forward with it".

"This law must not go into effect", said Dr. Jill Meadows, M.D., co-plaintiff and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Medical Director.

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If and when Iowa's fetal heartbeat abortion ban takes effect, Quad-City patients seeking abortion services will need to travel about 90 miles to one of two family planning facilities in IL.

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

The law contains a narrow exception in cases where a person's life is endangered by the pregnancy, and for cases of rape and incest. Doctors who violate this exception would lose their licenses.

It bans abortions after a heart beat is detected from an ultrasound, which typically occurs around six weeks into a pregnancy.

Earlier this month, Dr. Marygrace Elson, director of the OB-GYN residency program, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen the university could establish a clinic in IL, where residents could complete their family planning rotations.

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. They are also asking the Polk County District Court to block the law from taking effect while the lawsuit plays out. "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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