The Iowa Legislature Passed a 'Heartbeat' Bill Overnight, Taking Clear Aim at Roe v. Wade


Republican legislators in Iowa fast-tracked a so-called “heartbeat” bill early Wednesday morning that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The bill passed the Iowa Senate in the early hours of Wednesday morning, shortly after the House passed an identical bill. The legislation would effectively ban abortion after roughly six weeks, which is before many people even know they are pregnant. The bill now heads to the state’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, who has not said whether or not she will sign the bill. In a statement to the Associated Press, Reynolds’s press secretary said: “Governor Reynolds is 100 percent pro-life and will never stop fighting for the unborn.”

If signed by the governor, Iowa’s heartbeat bill could become one of the most restrictive in the nation. Though the bill did not originally have exceptions, KCCI-Des Moines reports that the House added an amendment allowing for abortion if a woman has been raped.

The bill would require a pregnant woman to report the rape to law enforcement or a physician ‘within 45 days of the incident.’ The amendment also would permit an abortion if the woman is a victim of incest and reports that to a law enforcement agency or a health agency within 140 days.

Heartbeat bills have become a favorite tool of anti-abortion activists, but even Republican governors are often reluctant to sign such legislation since a federal appeals court struck down North Dakota’s six-week ban in 2015. In 2016, Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed similar legislation even though it had overwhelming support from anti-abortion activists and legislators in the state.

Still, introducing heartbeat bills remains popular even in states that, like Iowa, already have numerous abortion restrictions in place. In 2017, the state passed a 20-week ban on the procedure and, earlier this year, Reynolds signed a 72-hour waiting period into law.

It’s clear that the heartbeat legislation is Iowa is part of a broader anti-abortion strategy to challenge Roe v. Wade. “I would love for the United States Supreme Court to look at this bill and have this as a vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Republican Senator Jake Chapman told the AP.

If Reynolds signs the bill, opponents have already said that they will challenge the legislation in court.

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