Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Friday signed a bill which prohibits doctors from performing abortions after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Experts say a fetal heartbeat can be detected just six weeks after conception, often before the mother realizes she’s pregnant.
Senate File 359 (AKA the "heartbeat" bill) makes exceptions for incest, rape, and cases where the mother's life is in danger. A doctor found in violation of the bill could lose his license or be hit with criminal charges. Women who seek abortions in spite of the law would not be punished.
Reynolds signed the bill Friday before an audience of nearly 100 people, including children and toddlers. Protestors carrying coat hangers gathered outside the building and chanted “my body, my choice” during the ceremony.
“I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred,” said Governor Reynolds. “I understand that not everyone will agree with this decision. But if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn’t a beating heart indicate life?”
The law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1st, but will probably be put on hold by legal challenges.
“We will challenge this law with absolutely everything we have on behalf of our patients because Iowa will not go back,” said CEO Suzanna de Baca of Planned Parenthood - Heartland. The ACLU has also promised to challenge the law.
"We know that abortion bans don’t end abortion. This just ends safe abortion," argues Des Moines resident Jennifer Weatherby, 32.
A federal court challenge would take Iowa’s "heartbeat" bill to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has become increasingly conservative during the Trump Administration. From there, it could move to the Supreme Court and potentially challenge Roe v. Wade.
“The bold pro-life action taken by the Iowa legislature reflects growing national pro-life sentiment and restlessness under the extreme status quo imposed by Roe v. Wade,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, who leads the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. “While Roe has not yet been reversed, it has been soundly rejected in the court of public opinion.”
Iowa's “heartbeat” bill was approved by House lawmakers late Tuesday after a small group of Republicans threatened to withhold their votes on critical budget bills until the abortion measure was brought to a vote. The Senate approved it at 2:30am Wednesday morning.
Not a single Democrat in either chamber voted in favor of the bill.