Pro-Life Legal Group Will Defend Iowa Abortion Ban for Free After State Attorney General Refuses

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 21, 2018   |   5:25PM   |   Des Moines, IA

A pro-life legal group has stepped up to defend a new Iowa law prohibiting abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected.

The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based legal group, agreed to defend the law at no cost to taxpayers after the state attorney general refused, according to the Des Moines Register.

On Monday, the Executive Council of Iowa unanimously approved the legal group to represent the state, according to the report.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a pro-abortion Democrat, recused himself from the case last week. He said defending the law would violate his “core belief” about women’s “rights and protections.”

Miller recommended the Thomas More Society as a replacement when he recused himself, KCCI News reports.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the heartbeat law. A hearing on the challenge is slated for June.

Signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this month, the law will require abortion practitioners to test for the unborn baby’s heartbeat before performing an abortion. If a heartbeat is detected, the abortion would be prohibited except in cases involving medical emergency, rape, incest or fetal abnormalities deemed to be “incompatible” with life.

Because an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable by about six weeks of pregnancy, the bill would prohibit almost all abortions in Iowa. It is the earliest abortion ban in the United States.

Pro-life lawmakers expected the legal challenge, and expressed hopes that the law eventually could lead to the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

After Miller’s announcement, Reynolds said the Thomas More Society would defend the law on the state’s behalf, the Quad-City Times reports. The vote on Monday confirmed this.

“We feel very confident moving forward with it, and so it’s important that, first of all, this is about life, it’s about protecting life and that’s first and foremost the priority, and we have somebody that has agreed to represent us and do it at no cost to the taxpayers,” Reynolds said.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU blasted the law during a press conference last week.

Rita Bettis, of the ACLU of Iowa, criticized the life-affirming law as “beyond extreme.”

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“With it, Iowa politicians have tried to ban virtually all abortions for women in our state. In the 45 years since Roe, no federal or state court has upheld such a dangerous law,” Bettis said.

Also challenging the law is the Emma Goldman Clinic, an abortion facility that aborts unborn babies up to 20 weeks in Iowa City, the local news reports. Francine Thompson, a co-director of the abortion facility, said the heartbeat law would ban almost all abortions in Iowa.

“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 want politicians out of women’s lives and out of the exam room. This law must be struck down.”

The goal of the legislation is to prevent the deaths of thousands of unborn babies every year. However, even some pro-life advocates admit that the success of the legislation is uncertain. While the rationale behind the bill is noble, a number of pro-life leaders recognize that, for the present, such bills may create unintended consequences that could hamper the pro-life cause.

Because of the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts, a law to prohibit abortions in the first trimester most likely would not survive a court challenge. President Donald Trump promised to appoint pro-life justices to the courts, but he would have to appoint at least one more Supreme Court judge before the Iowa legislation would have a chance of being upheld.

North Dakota and Arkansas passed heartbeat bills several years ago, but federal courts struck down both laws.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about its ruling on the six-week ban: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”

When courts rule against such laws, state taxpayers often are forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.