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'Fetal heartbeat' bill moves forward in the House, despite warnings of legal challenges

A packed room in the Iowa Capitol to hear lawmakers discuss a bill that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. (Caroline Cummings)

The House is moving forward with a bill that would ban most abortions in Iowa, despite strong pushback and warnings of potential legal challenges.

The measure moved out of a House Human Resources committee after a 12-9 vote and passionate testimony from lawmakers on both sides of the issue. It would ban abortions in Iowa after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks, except when the mother's life is in danger.

The "fetal heartbeat" language was added as an amendment onto another bill aimed at barring the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.

Supporters of the bill maintain they are protecting the lives of the unborn, arguing that if a life ends when a heartbeat stops beating, it starts when a heartbeat begins.

“We are talking about an unborn baby that is deserving of all of the rights and protections including the right to life under the U.S. constitution and our state constitution," said. Rep Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville.

Democrats on the committee railed against the bill, arguing the bill places political ideology ahead of the health of women and girls.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, stressed the move to ban nearly all abortions in Iowa — which would give the state the strictest abortion law in the nation — would almost certainly not uphold in court, citing two other states whose strict abortion laws, similar to the bill Republican lawmakers are proposing, were shot down by federal courts.

“This law is no different than the North Dakota and Arkansas laws. I have every expectation that there will be an immediate injunction and the results will be the same," Wessel-Kroeschell said.

Rep. Timi Brown-Powers, D-Waterloo, held back tears as she told the packed room of lawmakers, reporters and members of the public that she had suffered many miscarriages. She said the decision to have an abortion is one for a woman to make, not a legislative body.

"I am a mother of one who had eight miscarriages. I would never choose an abortion for me. But I cannot choose for any of you, what you would do,” Timi Brown-Powers said.

The Senate approved a similar bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, but that measure also included language that would criminalize doctors if they performed an abortion after hearing a heartbeat. The House moved to strike down that language, so under this legislation a doctor would not face felony charges if he or she performed an aborting after a heartbeat.



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