State leaders have approved hiring the Chicago-based Thomas More Society law firm to represent it in the lawsuit that is challenging the new abortion law.

Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Emma Goldman Clinic filed suit last week, saying the restrictions of the new law make it a “virtual ban” on all abortions in the state. Democrat state Attorney General Tom Miller announced he would not defend the state in the lawsuit, saying 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.”

Chief Deputy Attorney General Eric Tabor says the executive council and legislators agreed the Thomas More Society would “do a good job.” “Because of their experience and the qualifications of their lawyers. And their desire to do it. Their zealous desire to defend the statute,” Tabor says. The executive council — which includes the Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Secretary of Agriculture and Governor — voted to hire the Thomas More Society. Governor Kim Reynolds was traveling and did not take part in the vote.

The law approved by Republican legislators and signed by Republican Reynolds, would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Tabor says “it’s his understanding” the outside law firm’s work will come at no cost to the state. He says the Thomas More Society would advise the state about moving forward with appeals.

“And we’d be in consultation with the governor’s office. We are the state, we are the client. But we would I think take advice from them about what they wanted to do in the case. They’re the lawyers,” Tabor says. Tabor says a contract will be signed ahead of the first hearing in the legal challenge, which is scheduled for June first.

(Iowa Public Radio’s Katarina Sostaric contributed to this story)