Published On: Thu, Nov 27th, 2014

Iowa lawsuit: abortion is ‘not a right’ as Planned Parenthood battles over ‘webcams’

Thomas More Society-Omaha attorneys have filed a Friend-of-the-Court (amicus) brief with the Iowa Supreme Court supporting the Iowa Board of Medicine’s decision to ban webcam abortions. Contrary to Planned Parenthood’s claims, the Society’s brief demonstrated, using Iowa precedent, that abortion is not a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution. The brief is filed on behalf of: the national Catholic Medical Association, Des Moines and Quad Cities Guilds; Iowans for Life; and Women’s Choice Center, Quad Cities.

photo/Pro-Life Action League

photo/Pro-Life Action League

“The history and tradition of Iowa’s constitutional jurisprudence demonstrates that there is not a fundamental right to abortion, and Planned Parenthood did not provide any evidence to the contrary,” said Matt Heffron, Thomas More Society-Omaha attorney. “The real issue is that Planned Parenthood does not like the Iowa Board of Medicine’s decision to essentially outlaw webcam abortions.”

In August, 2013, the Iowa Board of Medicine voted 8-2 that a physician must be physically present when administering abortion drugs, rather than simply pushing a button at a remote location to provide the drugs after only a video consultation. The new rule prohibited the practice of webcam abortions, which allowed a woman to take abortion-inducing drugs without being physically examined by a doctor before or after the procedure.

Planned Parenthood appealed the Medical Board’s ruling, but in August, 2014, Polk County District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell upheld the ban on webcam abortions.

Planned Parenthood has appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, arguing that the rule promulgated by the Iowa Board of Medicine should be found unconstitutional, and that abortion should be considered a fundamental right under the Iowa constitution.

ACLU submitted an amicus brief supporting Planned Parenthood, declaring: “The rights of…abortion are recognized throughout the Iowa Constitution” (emphasis added).  That statement was demonstrably false.

Thomas More Society’s brief, authored by attorneys Matthew Heffron and Christine Delgado, contests Planned Parenthood’s and the ACLU’s claim, demonstrating that:

  1. Abortion is not mentioned in the language of the Iowa Constitution nor in its constitutional debates.
  2. Neither the Iowa Legislature nor the Iowa courts have ever recognized a right to abortion under the Iowa Constitution.

The Thomas More Society attorneys also were assisted by Omaha attorney Rob Black and Des Moines attorney Patrick Smith.

Furthermore, the Society’s brief explains that Planned Parenthood’s assertions that webcam abortions are “exceptionally safe” ignore the extensive evidence presented at hearings before the Board concerning the dangers of drug-induced abortion. These dangers are also documented expansively in the Friend-of-the-Court briefs submitted by Americans United for Life and Alliance Defending Freedom.

Thomas More Society-Omaha attorneys also previously assisted the Iowa Assistant Attorney General with constitutional research that the Medical Board’s ban is both constitutionally sound and in keeping with Iowa’s history of regulation of abortion in the interest of women’s safety.

Read Thomas More Society’s amicus brief, filed with the Iowa Supreme Court, here.


About the Thomas More Society:

The Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Based in Chicago with a branch in Omaha, the Thomas More Society defends and fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

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