Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed a law banning most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or at around six weeks of pregnancy, marking the strictest abortion regulation in the nation. The move sets the stage for a lengthy court fight. The Republican governor signed the legislation in her office at the state Capitol as protesters gathered outside chanting, "My body, my choice!" Reynolds acknowledged that the new law would likely face litigation, but said: "This is bigger than just a law, this is about life, and I'm not going to back down." The Iowa law provides for some exemptions that allow abortions during a later pregnancy stage to save a pregnant woman's life or in some cases of rape and incest, per the AP.
The ban, set to take effect on July 1, has propelled Iowa to the front of a push among conservative statehouses jockeying to enact restrictive regulations on the medical procedure. Mississippi passed a law earlier this year banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but it's on hold after a court challenge. The bill signing came shortly after the Iowa affiliates of Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union warned that they would sue the governor if she signed the bill, which the Republican-controlled Legislature quickly approved in after-hours votes earlier in the week. Backers of the so-called heartbeat bill expressed hope it could challenge Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established women have a right to terminate pregnancies until a fetus is viable.