No exceptions: Group seeks to join abortion suit

An anti-abortion group opposed to exceptions for rape and incest seeks to intervene in ongoing lawsuit over fetal-heartbeat law.


Katina Zentz

The Planned Parenthood-Iowa City Health Center is seen on Monday, July 9, 2018.

Elianna Novitch, Politics Reporter

As litigation continues over the so-called fetal-heartbeat law, a new anti-abortion group has filed a motion to be included in the courtroom, contending that its advocacy is relevant to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit over the fetal-heartbeat law, which would ban abortions after a heartbeat in the fetus can be detected, was filed in June by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic against the state.

The ban would be one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, because fetal heartbeats can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law was set to take effect on July 1, but a judge’s injunction placed a temporary hold on the ban as it makes its way through the courts.

The organization looking to intervene in the lawsuit, Save the 1, is a nonprofit organization that believes in no exceptions when it comes to banning abortion. The group is made up of individuals conceived by rape, incest, and those deemed to have a fetal abnormality.

Save the 1 moved to intervene because of the group’s opposition to exemptions in the law that would allow abortions in the cases of medical emergencies, including conception as the result of rape or incest, miscarriages, and fetal abnormalities.

“They are establishing protection for people and children, but then they are denying protection to a certain people group,” founder and President of Save the 1 Rebecca Kiessling said. “Similar to how the NAACP might step in if its people group were targeted in legislation, we’re stepping in.”

Kiessling herself was conceived by rape.

She said Save the 1 wants to see the fetal-heartbeat law upheld, and the group also wants the “offending” exceptions removed. In the law, a severability clause was included that would allow for certain provisions of the bill to be dropped while the rest is upheld.

“What’s happened here is that these legislators have codified hatred, and they have systematically targeted us for extermination,” Kiessling said.

Save the 1 filed its motion to intervene in June, and it has been met with resistance on both sides of the lawsuit, including the Thomas More Society, a conservative, anti-abortion legal firm representing the state, according to Kiessling and reports in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

“Our attorneys are asking that they not join the case …” Co-Director of the Emma Goldman Clinic Francine Thompson said. “Their arguments to compel survivors of rape to carry the pregnancy to term is in direct contradiction and is inconsistent with the Iowa Constitution.”

Iowans for LIFE however, voiced its support for Save the 1.

“We, too, were not in favor of the exception line that got put into the bill, and we’ll continue to work until all life in the womb is protected and treasured,” Executive Director of the group Maggie DeWitte said.

The parties involved in the lawsuit are set to file briefs by the end of this week arguing their positions on Save the 1’s intervention. The judge will rule after considering the briefs.

Kiessling said that if Save the 1’s motion is denied, it will file in federal court.

UI political-science Professor and constitutional scholar Paul Gowder said litigation over the law is likely to proceed quickly, and the bill would likely be struck down if it ever made it to the Iowa Supreme Court.

“This particular litigation is likely to go fairly quickly, because in a previous abortion bill, the state Supreme Court held for the first time that there’s a state constitutional right to reproductive choice,” Gowder said.