May 16, 2018, 2:27 PM ET

Iowa AG refuses to defend 'heartbeat' abortion law

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Two of the most restrictive state abortion laws in the country could go into effect soon.

In Iowa, the state's attorney general is taking a stand against the recently signed the so-called “heartbeat ban” law, outlawing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

In Louisiana, a 15-week abortion ban has passed through both legislative houses and is headed this week to the desk of Governor John Bel Edwards, who is expected to sign it.

Legal drama in Iowa

In a letter to the secretary of Iowa’s Executive Council, the state solicitor general informed the council that state Attorney General Tom Miller had "disqualified himself" from representing Iowa in a lawsuit against the implementation of the so-called "heartbeat" ban.

"The disqualification is based on the Attorney General's determination that 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," Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson wrote.

The law passed by Iowa’s legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds prevents any woman -- even in cases of rape and incest -- from having an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected.

PHOTO: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, center, claps after signing a six-week abortion ban bill into law during a ceremony in her formal office, May 4, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa.Charlie Neibergall/AP, file
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, center, claps after signing a six-week abortion ban bill into law during a ceremony in her formal office, May 4, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa.

That can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, at a time when some women may not even know they are pregnant.

The solicitor general's letter notes that the state's position will be represented pro-bono by the Chicago-based conservative pro-life law firm the Thomas More Society.

Martin Cannon, the special counsel for the Thomas More Society, said in a statement released to ABC News that Miller's decision was based on "his personal beliefs."

"Since the Thomas More Society’s mission is to protect women and children from the devastating consequences of abortion, when there is a choice between life and death, the Thomas More Society is honored to be called upon to defend life," Cannon said in the statement.

Miller’s decision to recuse himself was hailed by the non-profit reproductive health care organization Planned Parenthood, with executive vice president Dawn Laguens commending Miller "for standing up for a woman’s right to control her own body, and decide for herself whether and when to become a parent."

"Not only is this ban blatantly unconstitutional, it’s also extremely harmful to women,” Laguens said in a statement Tuesday.

“We have to keep fighting to make sure everyone gets the health care they want and need, including access to safe, legal abortion," she said.

Next steps in Louisiana

Louisiana legislators are moving forward in their effort to pass a law banning abortions in the state after 15 weeks into the pregnancy.

The bill has been passed both houses of the Louisiana legislature, according to local newspaper The Advocate. It will now go back to the state senate to reconcile some amendments to the bill from the original version, before being sent to Edwards.

PHOTO: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at an event, March 28, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.Melinda Deslatte/AP, FILE
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at an event, March 28, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

Edwards, a Democrat, is waiting to read over the final language of the bill, but has said he is "inclined" to sign a 15-week abortion bill into law, according to a spokesperson.

The Louisiana bill is similar to a 15-week abortion ban that was passed in Mississippi in March.

Prior to the passage of the Iowa “heartbeat” abortion ban law, Mississippi’s 15-week limit was among the most restrictive in the country.

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  • Cait McKnelly

    Kim Reynolds based her reasoning for signing this bill, not on "junk science", but on outright mythology. She stated that, "...if life ends when the heart stops then it makes sense that life begins when the heart starts beating." Except that's a false assumption and the woman obviously doesn't even know her own state's law. Throughout all fifty states, Iowa included, death is defined as "brain death". A heartbeat can and, as long as the corpse can be kept on life support, will keep beating after a person is dead (which is frequently done for organ harvesting for donation).
    The wisdom of this is illustrated by a case that took place in Texas. A pregnant woman who was brain dead was forced by the state, and against the family's wishes, to be kept on life support in an attempt to get the fetus to viability. Instead, her body began to rot around her fetus as one by one her bodily systems shut down. Finally, the state agreed to allow her to be removed from life support when it was proven that even the fetus was beginning to rot and decompose. Understand that this entire time, HER HEART AND THE FETAL HEART WERE STILL BEATING.
    A heart is nothing more than a muscle whose sole purpose is to pump blood through the body and maintain blood circulation. The irony is that, in a fetal heart, it doesn't even do that. (I would suggest, if you're truly interested, you look up fetal circulation.)
    If Kim Reynolds truly wanted to posit the philosophy that "life" can be defined by the definition of "death", then abortion would be legal clear up to the 24th week because that is the outside earliest that the neocortex (i.e., the brain) begins to develop.
    That would not sit well with her or the pro forced birthers.

  • Jen Bordon

    So in Iowa, if you happen to get pregnant, no matter the circumstances,
    you are forced to carry to term and deliver by order of the government.
    Nice.

  • Erin

    Edwards must be one of those “progressive”, “little tiny pieces/inch at a time”, “new democrat” types who have lost my vote.

  • rightened

    We should learn from the incident in Ireland, where an Indian woman was denied an abortion because her fetus still had a heartbeat... even though it was dying in her womb, and led to a painful death by blood poisoning due to the rotting corpse within her uterus.

    And the Irish-Catholic hospital would do nothing... because the fetus' heart wouldn't stop beating soon enough.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Iowa.
    A woman signs away the dignity and rights of other women.
    A man puts his career on the line because she is wrong.

    Amazing!

  • RitaJoseph

    This Iowa legislation is primarily a valuable educative measure. It proclaims and reinstates the truth that the victims of abortion are not property but rather are persons like ourselves, identifiable daughters and sons even while in their mothers’ wombs. Our posterity, like ourselves, are to be protected under the Constitution. . Our posterity are not to be mistreated as chattels, as possessions to be kept or to be attacked and discarded on the glib but false grounds ‘my child, my choice’.

    It is time to restore for every unborn child recognition that she or he is a family member--not a chattel.

    A mother does not own the child in her womb—the ties between them are biological ties of deep emotional and psychological significance. Her tiny daughter belongs to her and she belongs to her daughter. It is the natural intimacy of two human beings, not of owner and object, nor of master and slave.
    Unlike ownership, human belonging is a two way street: we belong to our children—they belong to us. We belong together—ourselves and our posterity.

    We parents own the responsibility to secure the blessings of liberty for our children.

    And, just so, will our children own the responsibility when we grow old, and ill and needy, to protect our rights, our liberty, our inherent dignity and worth as human beings. We belong to each other—there is no ownership, only human solidarity, what Abraham Lincoln called "the whole great family of man.”