Iowa lawmakers pass "heartbeat bill"

Posted May 03, 2018

After months of debate between the state House and Senate, Iowa is now only one step away from having one of the strictest abortion laws in the country.

The measure, which would effectively ban abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, passed the state House late Tuesday and the state Senate early Wednesday.

Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa said the "heartbeat" law could "set the stage" to "question abortion nationally".

Critics say that would ban the medical procedure before some women know they're pregnant.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds hasn't indicated whether she'll sign the bill into law.

"By passing an intentionally unconstitutional bill, Iowa Republicans have declared that they do not care about the foundational values of our state, or Iowa's future", Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokeswoman Erin Davison-Rippey said. "The governor does not comment on any bill until she sees it in its final form".

House leaders, attempting to get more of their members on board, brokered a deal on an amendment that created exceptions to the ban for some cases of rape and incest.

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Democrats, however, say the legal costs would be a waste of tax funds.

Opponents, such as Democratic Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, argued that only women and medical professionals should make decisions regarding abortion. "The heartbeat bill could save thousands of babies every year from the horror of abortion, and its passage demonstrates that many in our culture recognize that the little girl, with her heart beating in her mother's womb - she's a baby".

Iowa law now bars most abortions after 20 weeks, which already is among the strictest abortion bans in the country. The move is meant to pose an aggressive challenge to Roe v. Wade and reignite conservative energy before the midterm elections in November.

If Ms Reynolds signs the bill into law, it will likely be challenged in court for possibly violating Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court at the time declined to review those cases.

According to the Register, proponents of the bill hope it will spark a legal debate that ultimately overturns Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. Jake Chapman, who represents Adel, about 20 miles west of Des Moines.

"It's especially disturbing that the passage of this bill comes at a time when Iowa legislators have also led a devastating assault on access to family planning and contraception, especially for poor and rural women", Stringer said in a statement, referring to the Legislature's creation of the Family Planning Network past year, which resulted in the closure of four Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.

"We're considering whether we should recuse ourselves", he said. "Where it's been tried it's been quickly struck down by the courts, but (only) after extensive and expensive lawsuits".

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Known as the "heartbeat" bill, it requires physicians to conduct an abdominal ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat on women seeking an abortion. If that heartbeat is detected, a physician can not perform an abortion.

The bill, which includes exemptions for victims of rape and incest, quickly drew the condemnation of national abortion rights groups. It is also the point after which Iowa lawmakers now intend to outlaw abortions.

Jennifer Price, co-director of the Emma Goldman Clinic, which provides abortions in Iowa City, said women often take time to meet with counselors and family members before deciding whether to obtain an abortion.

Rep. Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, Iowa, disagreed with the exemptions because they water down the intent of the legislation. "However I will vote to protect most of the unborn and we will continue to work to protect all unborn children".

And although it includes specific language granting women legal immunity, it does not do so for physicians.

Democrats warned of negative ramifications to women and of a court battle. It leaves out what could happen to the doctors that perform them. "This is extremely unsafe".

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