Groups file suit challenging Iowa's six-week abortion ban

Former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards was Saturday’s keynote speaker for The Sage Colleges commencement

If the ban takes effect, Iowa women would have to travel out of state to obtain an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. In many instances that could happen before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa say the law is unconstitutional. The law bans most abortions in the state, making it the strictest abortion ban in the country.

The plaintiffs seek an expedited hearing to temporarily enjoin enforcement of the law set to go into effect July 1. Litigation could take years.

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. The groups' attorneys will argue the new abortion law violates equal protection clauses and women's fundamental right to safe and legal abortion without "unnecessary interference by the government". "It has been a very striking shift in the state Legislature, and it really shows how important state legislatures are to abortion access".

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.

Iowa is now in court defending a 2017 abortion law that imposes a 72-hour mandatory waiting period and an additional trip requirement for women seeking an abortion. "With it, Iowa politicians have tried to ban virtually all abortions for women in our state".

"This bill was to protect Iowa children, and it's about time that we looked at this life issue and have it reviewed in the court system", Iowans for Life Executive Director Maggie Dewitte said.


Iowa Republicans previous year 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.

"In the 45 years since Roe, no federal or state court has upheld such a unsafe law", Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa legal director, said in a statement.

Iowa's attorney general has recused himself from representing the state in a lawsuit challenging its new controversial abortion law because he personally disagrees with the statute. Her office later said the state would be represented by the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based nonprofit that has defended prominent religious leaders and causes. The firm had no immediate comment.

Governor Reynolds said in a statement when she signed the bill, "I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred, and as governor, I pledged to do everything in my power to protect it". Earlier versions had called for felony charges against doctors, but not women seeking an abortion.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, anticipated the legal challenge, a spokeswoman said.

"It's about protecting life".

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