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Fetal heartbeat abortion law challenged in Iowa

16 May 2018

Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Emma Goldman Clinic of Iowa City will challenge the constitutionality of Senate File 359, a measure slated to take effect July 1, that would outlaw most abortions in Iowa once a fetal heartbeat is detected - normally after about six weeks of pregnancy.

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

Pro-life advocates say they were prepared for a court battle.

A lawsuit challenging the nation's most restrictive abortion law was filed Tuesday in Iowa, a state that for years was largely left out of Republican efforts to overturn abortion protections and where the Democratic attorney general has refused to defend the law.

Nearly immediately, the state's attorney general said he would not defend the law.

Republican state Senator Rick Bertrand said last month the law was in part "an opportunity to take a run at Roe v. Wade".

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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".

A hearing on the temporary injunction is expected in the next few weeks.

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

The legislation would require doctors to conduct an abdominal ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat.

Similar lawsuits are underway in MS, which passed a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and Kentucky, which banned abortions after 11 weeks.

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. "It has been a very striking shift in the state Legislature, and it really shows how important state legislatures are to abortion access".

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Separately, a new Iowa-based coalition of anti-abortion organizations was formed past year to renew efforts toward an abortion ban.

Planned Parenthood officials say their organization along with the ACLU and the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City are in it for the long haul.

"It's a law that has been passed by politicians who are out of touch with the reality of women's lives", Thompson said. "This law must be struck down".

The ACLU of Iowa argues that if the court upholds the 72-hour wait period as well as the six-week ban, women will be placed in a risky position where they are forced to either carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, obtain an abortion in another state or self-induce an abortion.

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.

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Fetal heartbeat abortion law challenged in Iowa