Advocacy Group Files to Join Fetal Heartbeat Lawsuit, Aims to Remove Rape Exception

DES MOINES, Iowa -- On Friday, the challenge to Iowa’s fetal heartbeat bill was back in court. A third party is trying to join the lawsuit, but the other two sides don't want them involved.

The advocacy group Save the 1 filed a motion to intervene. The group’s founder, Rebecca Kiessling, is also their attorney. She says she has a personal connection to the bill and the exemptions it provides which allow for post-fetal heartbeat abortions in the cases of rape or incest.

“My birth mother was abducted at knife point by a serial rapist, she went to two illegal abortions prior to Roe vs Wade, exactly four years before Roe vs Wade, and she would have aborted me if it had been legal. She told me that, and yet, she loves me” said Kiessling.

Kiessling argues that unborn children of rape or incest should be considered a "people group" and the clause which grants an exception for abortions in cases of rape or incest is discriminatory and violates equal protection under the law.

“I have been called all sorts of things: monster’s child, “horrible reminder” which is a myth, rapist's child, and on and on and on. The mothers are discriminated against and we deserve our day in court” she said.

Rita Bettis Austen, the ACLU of Iowa’s legal director says the notion that unborn children of rape or incest are a “people group” is unfounded.

“This effort to shame women for their reason to terminate or continue a pregnancy is unfortunate and it's part of a larger effort to ban abortion outright, so let's not mistake it for anything other than that” said Bettis Austen.

The Attorney General's Office also argued against the motion, as did the Thomas More Society, which is representing the state at no cost to defend the bill as-is.

In court proceedings, Save the 1 disclosed that the Thomas More Society represented them in filing for non-profit status. Martin Cannon, a lawyer for the Thomas More Society says the conflict of interest could cause them to step aside, leaving the state to defend itself on the taxpayer’s dime.

“We got in this to spare the state from the business of defending the bill itself, and if intervention is allowed the state is just going to end up in it wholesale anyway” said Cannon.

The judge gave the ACLU and Planned Parenthood a week to reply to Save the 1’s motion.

When he receives their arguments, he'll make a ruling.