BREAKING NEWS

Parties agree to injunction in fetal heartbeat law challenge

Alice Clapman with Planned Parenthood Federation of America speaks to the judge as Rita Bettis with the ACLU of Iowa looks on Friday, June 1, 2018, during a hearing over Iowa's 'fetal heartbeat' abortion law at the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines. (Pool photo Michael Zamora/The Des Moines Register)
Alice Clapman with Planned Parenthood Federation of America speaks to the judge as Rita Bettis with the ACLU of Iowa looks on Friday, June 1, 2018, during a hearing over Iowa's 'fetal heartbeat' abortion law at the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines. (Pool photo Michael Zamora/The Des Moines Register)
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DES MOINES — Iowa’s controversial “fetal heartbeat” abortion law will not take effect July 1 as planned after attorneys on both side of the issue agreed to a stipulation Friday to temporarily halt the statute’s implementation while a legal challenge makes its way through the judicial process.

District Judge Michael D. Huppert said given the agreement by the parties, he saw no need for the hearing. Huppert indicated he will issue a temporary injunction later today to stay the law until the case goes to court.

“For the sake of getting to a resolution on the merits sooner and better we have agreed to essentially allow the bill to be put on hold while this court resolves the case on its merits,” said Martin Cannon, special counsel for the Thomas More Society — a faith-based legal organization based in Chicago that is representing defendants Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine at no cost to Iowa taxpayers.

Alice Clapman, an attorney with Planned Parenthood Federation of America representing Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic — which filed the lawsuit seeking to permanently strike down the law, agreed to move to the temporary injunction at a hearing in Polk County District Court that lasted about two minutes Friday.

The challenge to the law passed by the Iowa Legislature and signed by Reynolds seeks to permanently strike down as unconstitutional the law the governor signed May 4 that would ban most abortions with a few exceptions once a fetal heartbeat is detected — usually about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Opponents say the law is among the most restrictive in the country and they are seeking to enjoin it from taking effect. Both sides have acknowledged the outcome in state court likely will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Advocates of what is considered to be the most restrictive abortion law in the country, which Reynolds signed May 4, say they expected the legislation to be challenged in court and are hoping the ensuing legal battle will be a vehicle to overturn the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

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The law would require doctors to conduct an abdominal ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat. If a heartbeat is detected, a physician could not perform an abortion except in cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormality. The law does not specify criminal or civil penalties for those breaking the law, but critics argue it was poorly written with vague language creating uncertainty for doctors making medical decisions for their patients.

The law does not specify criminal or civil penalties for those breaking the law. Earlier versions had called for felony charges against doctors, but not women seeking an abortion.

Last month, the Iowa Executive Council gave approval for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office to enter into a contract with attorneys from the Thomas More Society to represent the state’s position after Miller, a Democrat, previously said his office would disqualify itself and not represent the state in defense of Senate File 359 if a legal challenge was filed.

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