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Iowa's New Abortion Ban Faces First Legal Challenge

The Iowa chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood announced a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the state's new "Fetal Heartbeat" Bill.

The bill, which Iowa's Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law in early May, bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy—before many women even realize they're pregnant. Iowa's new law is the strictest abortion ban in the nation.

"We are No. 1 in the country when it comes to protecting life," Reynolds said over the weekend at an event organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a religious group. “I believe all innocent life is precious and sacred, and, as governor, I pledge to you to do everything in my power to protect life."

Republican lawmakers in the state expected a legal challenge to the ban. Indeed, they crafted the legislation hoping that eventually the United States Supreme Court would hear the case and overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case recognizing women's constitutional right to abortion access.

"I believe this bill will be a vehicle that will ultimately provide change and provide the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade," Rick Bertrand, a Republican state senator from Sioux City told the Gazette. The Supreme Court has declined to hear similar cases in recent years.

"Quite plainly, with this new law, Iowa politicians have tried to ban all abortions in Iowa," Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa legal director, said in a press conference Tuesday. The ACLU filed the lawsuit in the Polk County District Court, and has asked the court for a temporary injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect on July 1st, before the case can be litigated.

In a rare move, Iowa's Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, will not defend the state's new law in court, according to the Des Moines Register's Stephen Gruber-Miller, "because of his core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women."