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Abortion Will Soon Be Essentially Banned in Iowa

Republicans pass 'heartbeat' bill governor has promised to sign
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 12, 2023 1:30 AM CDT
Abortion Will Soon Be Essentially Banned in Iowa
Pastor Michael Shover of Christ the Redeemer Church in Pella, left, argues with Ryan Maher, of Des Moines, as protestors clashed in the Iowa State Capitol rotunda, while the Iowa Legislature convenes for special session to pass 6-week 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban, Tuesday, July 11, 2023.   (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)

Iowa's Republican-led Legislature passed a bill banning most abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy during a marathon special session Tuesday that continued late into the night. Gov. Kim Reynolds immediately said in a statement she would sign the bill on Friday, the AP reports. The bill passed with exclusively Republican support in a rare, one-day legislative burst lasting more than 14 hours over the vocal—and sometimes tense—objections from Democratic lawmakers and abortion advocates protesting at the Capitol. Just after 11pm, lingering protesters in the gallery booed and yelled "shame" to state senators in the minutes after the bill was approved. Reynolds ordered the rare session after the state Supreme Court declined in June to reinstate a practically identical law that she signed in 2018.

A district court found the 2018 law unconstitutional in 2019 based on rulings by the US Supreme Court and Iowa's Supreme Court that had affirmed a woman's fundamental constitutional right to abortion. After both bodies overturned those rulings last year, the governor sought to reinstate the 2018 law. But the state's high court deadlocked last month without ruling on the merits of an abortion ban, leaving the law permanently blocked. And so Reynolds called lawmakers back to Des Moines. "The Iowa Supreme Court questioned whether this legislature would pass the same law they did in 2018, and today they have a clear answer," Reynolds said in a statement. "The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives cannot be ignored any longer, and justice for the unborn should not be delayed."

Abortion is currently legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. The legislation will take immediate effect with the governor's signature on Friday. It will prohibit almost all abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant. There are limited circumstances under the measure that would allow for abortion after that point in a pregnancy where cardiac activity is detected—such as rape, if reported to law enforcement or a health provider within 45 days; incest, if reported within 145 days; if the fetus has a fetal abnormality "incompatible with life;" and if the pregnancy is endangering the life of the pregnant woman. Preparations were already underway to quickly file legal challenges in court and get the measure blocked, once Reynolds signs it into law.

(More Iowa stories.)

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