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Chicago Attorneys to Take on Big Abortion Over Iowa Heartbeat Law

Planned Parenthood is threatening the fetal heartbeat law in Iowa. (Fibonacci Blue via Flickr)

Attorneys from the Thomas More Society, a national nonprofit pro-life public interest law firm, have been appointed to defend Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine against a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality under the Iowa State Constitution of the state's fetal heartbeat law, which Governor Reynolds recently signed into law.

On June 1, a Polk County, Iowa, judge blocked the law from taking effect until the lawsuit by abortion proponents is finally decided in court.

The lead plaintiff, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, joined by co-plaintiffs Jill Meadows, medical director of Planned Parenthood, and the Emma Goldman Clinic, an abortion provider in Iowa City, are represented by the Iowa ACLU, counsel for Planned Parenthood Federation of America from Washington, D.C., and lawyers from Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, a Cedar Rapids law firm. These plaintiffs are asking the Iowa court to declare that the new law violates the Iowa Constitution and thus bar the pro-life law from ever going into effect.

The lawsuit asserts no claim that the law is violative of federal abortion law, as decided in Roe v. Wade (1973) and in Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992). Thus, unless the lawsuit is later amended, the new law will stand or fall based solely on the provisions of the Iowa Constitution—an issue that has not yet been decided by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Thomas More Society attorney Martin Cannon, an Iowa resident, who will lead Thomas More Society's legal team in defense of the new law, explained that the defendants intend to mount a full and robust defense of the law at a trial.

"We want to have this argument once, we want to have it right, and we want to win it," Cannon said.

Putting the new law on hold, he said, serves that purpose by enabling defendants and defense counsel to focus their efforts and gather their resources in preparation for that upcoming battle.

The state of Iowa and its co-defendants expressly advised the Polk County District Judge that they "make no concessions on the ultimate merits of [the abortion plaintiffs'] claims."

The law was signed by Gov. Reynolds on May 4, 2018, and it was not due to go into effect until July 1. It is considered to be the most stringent, comprehensive abortion ban in the nation, one that would prevent most of Iowa's abortions.

"It is anticipated that Planned Parenthood will be unable to prevail and achieve a successful result in its challenge to the new law, which is meritless, nor to prove that irreparable harm would result if the statute were enforced," Cannon said. "The real and only irreparable harm that can be shown in this case is the harm done to babies with beating hearts. That is what this life-affirming law is designed to prevent."

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