Iowa lawmakers approve bill to make abortion illegal once heartbeat is detected — six weeks into pregnancy

The legislation passed overnight has some exemptions, allowing abortions after a detectable heartbeat in order to save a pregnant woman’s life, and in some cases of rape and incest

A pro-life activist tries to block the signs of pro-choice activists in front of the the U.S. Supreme Court during the 2018 March for Life January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican lawmakers with control of the Iowa statehouse fast-tracked a bill early Wednesday that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, sending what could be the nation’s most restrictive abortion legislation to the governor.

Critics say the so-called “heartbeat” bill would ban the medical procedure before some women even know they’re pregnant, and it sets the state up for a legal challenge over its constitutionality.

I am personally offended by this bill that seems to second-guess a woman’s ability to make an unintended and difficult decision

“How dare we think that the privacy and decisions of a woman and her medical choices are up to us to determine?” said Rep. Vicki Lensing, an Iowa City Democrat, during House floor debate that began Tuesday afternoon and stretched into the early hours of Wednesday. “I am personally offended by this bill that seems to second-guess a woman’s ability to make an unintended and difficult decision.”

The measure was passed with nearly back-to-back chamber votes along party lines, culminating in approval in the Senate chamber shortly after 2 a.m. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is anti-abortion but hasn’t said publicly if she will sign it into law. Her press secretary, Brenna Smith, indicated in an email the Republican was open to signing it.

“Governor Reynolds is 100 per cent pro-life and will never stop fighting for the unborn,” Smith said

In this Jan. 8, 2018 file photo, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference as acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, left, looks on during the opening day of the Iowa Legislature at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. AP PHOTO/CHARLIE NEIBERGALL, FILE