Nation's most restrictive abortion law is challenged in Iowa


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A lawsuit challenging the nation's most restrictive abortion law was filed today in Iowa, a state that for years was largely left out of Republican efforts to overturn abortion protections and where the Democratic attorney general has refused to defend the law.

If allowed to take effect, the law would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, around the sixth week of pregnancy, a point when, abortion-rights groups say, many women don't know they are pregnant.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced the filing of the complaint in Polk County District Court in Des Moines. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to halt the law's July 1 implementation. Litigation could take years.

Until the 2016 election, Iowa had little to no role in the broad GOP effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

"We haven't heard much out of Iowa until the past couple of years," said state policy analyst Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a national research group that supports abortion rights and tracks legislation tied to abortion. "It has been a very striking shift in the state Legislature, and it really shows how important state Legislatures are to abortion access."

The election flipped control of the Iowa Senate, putting Republicans in charge of the state Legislature and the governor's office for the first time in two decades. Until then, Democrats had maintained enough political power to curtail Republican anti-abortion attempts.

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