Iowa poised to enact nation’s most-restrictive abortion law

UPDATE — 6/1, 11:32 a.m. EDT: An Iowa district court judge said Friday he will issue a temporary injunction on the state’s new abortion law which would make the practice virtually illegal.

The bill, passed in early May, was set to go into effect July 1, but a series of rights groups, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, sued arguing the ban is unconstitutional.  


Both houses of the Iowa state legislature approved a bill Wednesday which would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The Iowa House passed the bill 51–46.  In the state Senate, the motion passed by a wider margin, 29–17.  Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, an abortion opponent, announced Friday she will sign the bill later in the afternoon.

A sweeping bill, the motion takes aim at halting the harvesting of fetal parts and sets prerequisites for the abortion procedure to occur.

Referred to as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, under the terms of the law physicians are required to perform an abdominal ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion.  Should a heartbeat be detected, which usually occurs within six weeks of conception, the physician can not perform an abortion.

Prior Iowa legislation allowed abortions to be performed only when it was deemed a medical emergency.

After further debate, legislators inserted specific language into the bill providing for legal abortions to occur after a heartbeat is detected.  Caveats include:  The pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, both of which would require notification to authorities.

Similar circumstances, such as endangerment to the woman following a spontaneous miscarriage, or abnormality of fetus as determined by the physician, were also added to the bill.

Commenting on the passage of the bill, Iowa state Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) said:

“We created an opportunity to take a run at Roe v. Wade — 100 percent.”

Bertrand added one of the main purposes of the bill is to “thrust into the court” the abortion issue and have abortion be debated in front of a Supreme Court more favorable to the pro-life movement.

Opposing the bill, Becca Lee of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, wrote in an email to Reuters:

“(This bill is an) intentionally unconstitutional ban on 99 percent of safe, legal abortion, designed to challenge Roe v. Wade.  The bill weaponizes fetal heartbeat, which is by all accounts an arbitrary standard that bans abortion long before the point of fetal viability.”

The University of Iowa’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has also warned the law will discourage OB-GYN specialists from practicing in the Hawkeye State.  Iowa currently has the second lowest rate of such doctors in the U.S.


[Reuters] [AP via Chicago Tribune] [Des Moines Register] [Photo courtesy UltrasoundSchoolsInfo]