DES MOINES — A state court judge on Friday heard arguments on whether to dismiss a lawsuit challenging an Iowa law passed last year that would block Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from receiving federal grant money for sex education courses.
Judge Paul Scott is considering whether to throw out the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa for Planned Parenthood. It challenges the law passed as a violation of free speech, due process and equal protection rights.
Last May, Judge Joseph Seidlin temporarily halted enforcement of the law until the court could decide whether it’s constitutional. He concluded that Planned Parenthood is likely to succeed in its equal protection claim and that it has demonstrated significant harm through the loss of funding.
The law was another effort by conservative lawmakers to end streams of government funding for the organization, which also provides abortions, though no state or federal funds go to abortions.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ogden argued for the state, saying the case is about Iowa choosing with whom it contracts to deliver sex education for youth and that Iowa “prefers not to contract with abortion providers to deliver its messaging about sex education and teen pregnancy prevention.”
Planned Parenthood attorney Julie Murray argued the state must have a plausible and rational reason to treat the organization differently, but that is difficult to do because lawmakers — including Republican Sen. Mark Costello of Imogene, who managed the bill — acknowledged during debate that the law intentionally singles out the organization.
“If the point is simply that the government doesn’t want to associate itself with an abortion provider, that is precisely the kind of invidious discrimination and bare animus that cannot possibly be rational,” Murray said.
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Both sides in the case are seeking a summary judgment, which is a legal request for the judge to decide the case and dismiss it without a trial. The judge could rule for one or the other, or he could decide there are sufficient facts in dispute and order a trial.