Iowa Lawmakers Pass Bill Banning ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Abortions

Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill early Wednesday that would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, hasn’t said whether she will sign the bill, which would ban most abortions since a heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks and often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

If signed into law, it could make its way to the Supreme Court and test the limits of abortion rights.

A spokeswoman for the governor said she is “100% pro-life” but hasn’t yet seen the bill.

“The governor does not comment on any bill until she sees it in its final form,” spokeswoman Brenna Smith said.

The bill in Iowa echoes efforts in other states to pass tough bans on abortion that could make their way to the Supreme Court. With President Donald Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch, and a potential retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, some antiabortion advocates think the timing may be right for a broader challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion.

Iowa State Rep. Sandy Salmon, a Janesville Republican, said that now is the right time for pro-life advocates to be challenging abortion laws. “If we never challenge the current law, we’re never going to see it overturned,” she said.

Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, called the bill “unconstitutional.”

Mary Ziegler, professor of law at Florida State University, said even with a reconfigured court, upholding a fetal heartbeat ban would be “a pretty big leap.”

“It’s the most extreme abortion ban that’s been passed,” she explained.

A similar bill was passed in Ohio in late 2016, which would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat was detected. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, didn’t sign the bill.

Write to Shayndi Raice at

Appeared in the May 3, 2018, print edition as ‘Strict Abortion Bill Passes in Iowa.’

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