Polk County District Courthouse

A Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert recently placed a temporary injunction on Iowa’s new fetal heartbeat abortion ban while it is challenged in court. Save The 1, a pro-life organization based in Michigan representing over 600 people who were conceived in rape or incest and mothers who became pregnant under such circumstances, filed a motion to intervene. They are opposed to the exceptions in the law made for cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities.

They filed as necessary third-party intervenors “of right” since the current Plaintiff, Planned Parenthood, will not argue on behalf of their interests.  Erin Mersino – a pro-life constitutional law attorney from Michigan with the Great Lakes Justice Center, Eric Borseth — an attorney from Iowa and a board member of Personhood Iowa, and Rebecca Kiessling are attorneys representing Save the 1.

The fetal heartbeat abortion ban protects unborn children who have a detectable heartbeat, except “when the abortion is medically necessary” and “medically necessary” as defined, in part in the law, includes cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormality. Save the 1 says this makes the abortion provider the sole arbiter of these determinations. They say this language in the bill lacks due process and denies equal protection guaranteed under the Iowa and U.S. constitutions. 

Save the 1 asks that the offending provisions be severed under the severability clause within the legislation, and wishes to see the Fetal Heartbeat Law upheld without these exceptions. 

Judge Huppert heard arguments on Friday from the group that the effort to uphold “without the offending exceptions” is relevant to the current lawsuit. Attorneys representing Planned Parenthood and the Emma Goldman Clinic, as well as, the Thomas More Society who is defending the bill on behalf of the state oppose Save the 1’s motion to intervene.

Kiessling said if they are not allowed to join the case, they will file a federal lawsuit challenging the law’s exceptions.

Save the 1s’ challenge, if filed in federal court, has a greater chance of reaching the U.S. Supreme Court since the original lawsuit did not cite the U.S. Constitution or federal law which limits federal jurisdiction. 

The Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders, that includes Iowa Right to Life, The FAMiLY Leader, Iowans for LIFE, Iowa PAC for Life, Restored by Grace Ministries, Personhood Iowa, Lutheran Family Service of Iowa, and the Thomas More Society, released a joint statement about the court proceedings on Friday:

We appreciate the sentiments of the Save the One organization, and we too seek a day when all unborn children are protected, regardless of their health or how they are conceived.

We believe the passage of the Heartbeat Law is elevating the public discussion to a place from which there is no going back, and hastens the day when all unborn children are protected. For we know the child in her mother’s womb, regardless of physical disability or how she was conceived – she’s a baby.

So we will support the efforts of the Thomas More Society to defend the Heartbeat Law, and we will continue to work until all life in the womb is treasured and protected.

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