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

Pro-choice groups challenge Iowa's strict abortion ban

Iowa's so-called heartbeat ban (SF 359) prohibits doctors from performing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks' gestation and often before many people even know they are pregnant.

ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis said no state or federal court has upheld an abortion law that is this restrictive.

The law bans abortion once a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus, typically around six weeks. The new legislation also bans the sale of all fetal tissue in the state.

The law is set to go into effect on July 1.

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.

The lawsuit follows reports of increased pro-life protests and advocacy outside of abortion clinics across the country, The AP noted.

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

Abortion opponents hope such a lawsuit could bring the divisive abortion issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court in the belief that the 5-4 conservative majority could curtail abortion access or ban it outright.

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.

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The lawsuit names Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine as defendants, Bettis said.

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.

There are some exceptions in the law.

"Today we will begin this journey as Iowa becomes ground zero nationally for the life movement and the starting line back to the Supreme Court", said Sen. "Not only is this ban blatantly unconstitutional, it's also extremely harmful to women".

"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.

"This law, if signed, I believe could very well be the very bill that overturns Roe v. Wade", said Sen. 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".

"In the 45 years since Roe, no federal or state court has upheld such a risky law", said ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis.

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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