Advocates Sue to Block Iowa's Total Abortion Ban

Cheryl Sanders
May 16, 2018

The ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood Federation of America are filing the lawsuit as co-counsel on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Dr. Jill Meadows, an OB-GYN and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland medical director.

The lawsuit names Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine as defendants. They say the state constitution, not the U.S. Constitution, guarantees a woman's right to abortion.

Women's rights advocates filed a lawsuit in an Iowa district court Tuesday seeking to block Iowa's newest abortion law - known as "the heartbeat bill" - which bans most abortions at about the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, previously indicated his office would disqualify itself and not represent the state in defense of the "heartbeat" law if a legal challenge was filed.

Iowa Republicans a year ago also gave up millions in federal dollars to create a state-funded family planning program that prohibits participation from abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.

Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa Legal Director, told reporters Tuesday that "this abortion ban is beyond extreme".

Brenna Smith, press secretary for the governor, said in statement Tuesday, "We knew there would be a legal fight, but it's a fight worth having to protect innocent life".

Miller said the Thomas More Society, a conservative Chicago-based law firm, has agreed to defend the law for free.

They seek to have the law struck down as unconstitutional and are requesting a temporary injunction with an expedited hearing within 14 days as the case progresses. In June 2015, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that "the Iowa Constitution protects a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy to the same extent as the United States Constitution".

The legislation would require doctors to conduct an abdominal ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat. It prohibits a physician from performing an abortion "when it has been determined that the unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat", which happens at about six weeks.

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

"The timing makes it an nearly complete ban on abortions in our state", said Emma Goldman Clinic Co-director Francine Thompson.

The state legislature past year also passed a 72-hour waiting requirement for women seeking an abortion.

"It's a law that has been passed by politicians who are out of touch with the reality of women's lives", Thompson said. "We will not back down until every person has the freedom and opportunity to make the health care decisions that are best for them and their families". A challenge against the 72-hour law is now pending before the Iowa Supreme Court. The Iowa Supreme Court has yet to issue an opinion in that case.

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