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Iowa's Fetal Heartbeat Bill Is Perilous for Women

by Birthright: A War Story | Updated on 9.25.18

***This content was originally published by the [Des Moines Register] (https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2018/02/12/fetal-heartbeat-bill-sent-iowa-senate-floor-packed-crowd-cheers/330210002/), and featured in Birthright: A War Story's [newsletter] (https://mailchi.mp/ed03c984aa8d/birth-control-is-not-controversial). Read more about this issue, take action, and help move the needle.*** *** State senators go back and forth over abortion and Planned Parenthood issues as subcommittee members consider “fetal heartbeat” legislation at the Iowa Capitol, which would ban most abortions in Iowa. Rodney White/The Register Legislation banning nearly all abortions in Iowa after a fetal heartbeat is detected was approved by the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday night after a brief debate focusing on women's access to health care versus the rights of the unborn. ***Take action below to record a personal video message about this issue. Your video may be included in Birthright's advocacy emails to lawmakers or social posts targeting key public officials.*** A packed meeting room at the Iowa Capitol erupted in cheers from Christian conservatives after [Senate Study Bill 3143] (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=SSB3143) was advanced on an 8-5 vote. All the yes votes were by Republicans. All the no votes were by Democrats. The bill now heads to the Senate floor, where it will be eligible for debate the remainder of the 2018 legislative session. “The goal of this is to protect the lives of all Iowans, especially those who are the most vulnerable and cannot speak up for themselves," said Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton. Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, opposed the bill. She charged that Republicans don't care about women's ability to access good health care. She also warned such legislation will discourage doctors from practicing in Iowa and she said it will result in Iowa losing its only medical residency program to train obstetricians/gynecologists. "This bill will make Iowa an OB-GYN desert," Petersen said. ![](https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/abc24fbd7747a50af62bd39601855788dddef857/c=5-0-4027-3024&r=x408&c=540x405/local/-/media/2018/02/12/IAGroup/DesMoines/636540619174616344-Petersen.JPG) *Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Moines, seated at far left at the table, speaks during debate on an anti-abortion bill Monday night at the Iowa Capitol. (Photo: William Petroski/Des Moines Register)* The legislation provides that except for a medical emergency, a physician could not perform an abortion in Iowa unless a pregnant woman has been tested to determine if a fetal heartbeat is detectable. A doctor who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected and without a medical emergency could be charged with a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. However, a pregnant woman who obtains an abortion would not be held criminally liable. Sinclair thanked someone in the crowd for giving a seat to her daughter-in-law, whom she described as being pregnant with her grandson. She described abortion as a "barbaric choice" that involves the taking of a life. Petersen called the bill dangerous, adding that it redefines a medical emergency. She cautioned that if the bill is enacted into state law that Iowa taxpayers will be on the hook for legal expenses "for a bill that you know is unconstitutional." Under the legislation, a medical emergency means a situation in which an abortion is performed to preserve the life of the pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy. However, a medical emergency would not include psychological conditions, emotional conditions, family conditions or the woman’s age. Supporters of reproductive rights have been highly critical of the proposed legislation, which follows action by the Legislature last year to ban most abortions after 20 weeks and to block public funding for family planning services to clinics that provide abortion. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which had supporters at Monday night's committee meeting, has condemned both Senate and House bills aimed at restricting abortions, describing them as "the latest move in extreme lawmakers’ anti-women, anti-choice agenda." Christian conservatives have been elated at the advancement of the fetal heartbeat bill and they turned out in large numbers at the Senate committee meeting. They were urged to attend in an email sent Friday by Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive of The Family Leader. "This bill would save thousands of babies in Iowa each year!" Vander Plaats wrote.
Birthright: A War Story

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