Groups sue to block abortion ban; Iowa AG won't defend law (updated)

UPDATE: Have added the plaintiffs’ court filings at the end of this post.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic filed suit today to block the new state ban on almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. I enclose below the full statement from the groups and will post the court filing once that document becomes available. The Polk County District Court is certain to put a stay on Senate File 359 (which would have taken effect July 1) while litigation is pending.

Attorney General Tom Miller “has disqualified himself from representing the state” in this case, Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson informed Iowa’s Executive Council today. Miller took that step after determining “he could not zealously assert the state’s position because of his core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women.” The attorney general recommends that the Executive Council authorize the Thomas More Society to defend the law. That conservative group has offered its legal services at no cost to the state.

Miller’s decision is telling, because a few years ago, the Iowa Attorney General’s office defended the state administrative rule seeking to ban the use of telemedicine to provide medical abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics around the state. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously found that policy created an “undue burden” for women seeking an abortion. You can read that decision in full here.

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Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Iowa lawmakers went home for the year on May 5. In the coming weeks, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the legislature’s significant work that attracted relatively attention.

Two proposed state constitutional amendments passed both chambers and could appear on the 2020 general election ballot, if the House and Senate approve them in the same form during either 2019 or 2020.

Three other constitutional amendments cleared one chamber in 2017–in one case unanimously–then stalled in the other chamber as lawmakers completed this two-year session. Those ideas may resurface next year. But since changes to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures before landing on the general election ballot (the last step in the process), Iowa voters would not be able to ratify those proposals until November 2022 at the earliest.

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A spiritual case for a woman's right to have an abortion

A personal reflection by Jon Muller. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Those who read my posts have come to expect conclusions based on data, some level of quantification of a process, phenomenon, or proposal. There are plenty of data with respect to abortion that might inform our views, but this is simply my spiritual and moral view with respect to two claims.

1) Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is not a moral question.

2) The right of a woman to have an abortion should not be infringed.

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I was raised without bodily autonomy. The Iowa GOP is doing the same thing

Alexandra Rucinski is a patient advocate for Planned Parenthood and an activist for sex education and reproductive rights. Iowa’s near-total abortion ban inspired her to write this commentary. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I vividly remember the only sex-ed class I ever took in high school. A woman who worked for Planned Parenthood came to teach our class. I remember eyeing her with distrust as she talked about things absolutely forbidden to me. I didn’t listen because I felt like I wasn’t supposed to listen.

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IA-03: Austin Frerick, EMILY's List endorse Cindy Axne

Catching up on this week’s news from the third Congressional district, former candidate Austin Frerick is now supporting Cindy Axne, one of three remaining Democratic contenders. In a statement enclosed in full below, Frerick described Axne as “the hardest working candidate” in the once-crowded field, having held more than 80 meetings with voters in communities large and small. “Cindy is hands down the best person to beat David Young in November. I ask my supporters to fight as hard for Cindy as they did for me,” Frerick added.

Frerick ended his campaign just before last month’s filing deadline, saying he did not have the financial resources to compete for the nomination. He gained respect among supporters of all candidates for highlighting problems rarely discussed on any campaign trail, such as economic concentration and the Iowa Farm Bureau’s conflicts of interest.

I would guess that many local activists expected Frerick to endorse Pete D’Alessandro. Anecdotally, a lot of “Bernie Democrats” were having trouble deciding between those two candidates. U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, a vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus, was an early Frerick supporter and endorsed D’Alessandro soon after Frerick was out.

Also this week, Axne landed the endorsement of EMILY’s List (full statement below). The group promoting pro-choice, Democratic women has a huge national mailing list and can help candidates raise substantial funds from donors who might not otherwise be familiar with their campaigns. EMILY’s List came out for Abby Finkenauer in Iowa’s first Congressional district last year and for secretary of state candidate Deidre DeJear last month. Understandably, the PAC was keeping its powder dry in IA-03, where until recently, two strong pro-choice women were running. With Theresa Greenfield not qualifying for the ballot, Axne’s only remaining Democratic competitors are D’Alessandro and Eddie Mauro.

Any comments on the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread. Click here to read each candidate’s case for being able to beat Representative David Young and here for a list of high-profile endorsers.

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