Pro-life advocates gathered at a debriefing Friday after a hearing at the Polk County Courthouse regarding the Heartbeat law. The FAMiLY Leader hosted the event, which was attended by about 60 pro-life supporters.
“I’m glad we’re talking about life at heartbeat,” said president and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader Bob Vander Plaats. “But there’s a lot more to discuss. There are a lot of steps in this process yet.”
Vander Plaats implored those in attendance to pray for the law’s future and the judge; to sign The FAMiLY Leader’s amicus brief in support of the law; and to go to their pastors and explain the importance of speaking on the sanctity of human life.
Martin Cannon, the lawyer defending the law in court, spoke at the event and took questions.
“The whole point of today’s argument is to convince (the judge) that we have to have a trial,” Cannon said. “I do think the summary judgement they’re requesting would be inappropriate.”
One person in attendance expressed difficulty with the language Cannon used in court when discussing the intention of the Heartbeat law. During the hearing, Cannon said:
“This bill does not ban one single abortion, not one. It simply requires that all abortions be done early.”
Cannon said he believes life begins at conception, but the law being defended in court has nothing to do with that issue.
“(That argument) was made to rebut the argument that they’ve been making with just fervor that we’re banning almost all abortions,” Cannon said. “The only reason they say that is because so many of their patients come in after the point at which a heartbeat would be detectable. From that they say therefore this would ban all of those abortions. That is objectively illogical thinking. Every abortion that is currently being done after heartbeat could be done before heartbeat. That’s true and we have to say so.
“That’s why it’s important to say we aren’t banning any abortions. What we want to do is make them occur earlier. If we can knock out all the abortions being done later, even at the cost of having a number of them done sooner, we are still making an impact.”
Chuck Hurley, the vice president and chief counsel for The FAMiLY Leader, reminded those in attendance that Cannon is arguing for the law under the cloud of the federal Supreme Court, the Iowa Supreme Court and a statute that isn’t as strong as most in the room would like.
“It’s very difficult to sit and listen to those arguments when we’d all like the argument to be life at conception,” Hurley said. “But that’s just not before the court today. Hopefully in future years it will be before the court.”
Two years ago Iowa passed a 20-week abortion ban. Cannon credited that bill for opening the door to the heartbeat bill. He speculated that the heartbeat bill may open the door for a Personhood bill in the future.
“If this bill stands, we have accomplished a great deal,” Cannon said. “We have eliminated a huge number of grizzly murders of children. We have started to create a culture where sexual activity is not treated flippantly, where women start to exercise more carefully the rights they have to choose. We needed to make that argument because, at least in theory, it’s completely correct.”
State Sen. Dennis Guth asked Cannon whether he thought it would help or hurt the law if the legislature continued to push toward Personhood or a life at conception law.
“I probably wouldn’t do that right now,” he said. “That’s just my gut instinct. We’ve been piling things on pretty good lately. We got 20 weeks two years and heartbeat now. I guess I’d want to avoid creating the impression among the courts that we’re kind of running amuck.”