Iowa lawmakers to weigh six-week abortion ban in special session


By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) – Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature on Tuesday will consider a ban on abortions as soon as fetal cardiac activity can be detected, after around six weeks of pregnancy and before most women know they are pregnant.

Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, ordered the special legislative session after the Iowa Supreme Court on June 16 blocked a similar measure passed in 2018 from going into effect.

The Midwestern state’s highest court deadlocked in a 3-3 decision, leaving abortion legal in Iowa for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

However, the three judges who opposed reinstating the 2018 law said they were doing so to avoid legislating from the bench, leading Republican lawmakers to believe they have a good chance of beating future challenges by passing a new law now.

Fourteen states have banned most abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022 overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case and stripped away a nationwide right to abortion.

Iowa’s 2018 ban on abortions after about six weeks was put on hold by the courts while Roe v. Wade and similar state constitutional protections were in effect, but both have now been reversed.

A draft of the new Iowa bill calls for outlawing abortions with limited exceptions after cardiac activity can be detected, weeks before the fetus has developed an actual heart.

In its current form, the bill would make some exceptions for rape and incest. Abortions after six weeks would also be allowed in the case of a medical emergency, a fetal abnormality that a doctor reasonably believes is incompatible with life and in the event that continuing the pregnancy would create a serious risk of irreversible harm to the woman’s body.

It would not make exceptions for the age of the pregnant person or any mental health condition.

The state Senate and the state House of Representatives were set to begin debate on Tuesday, and it was unclear how long discussions would last.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa on Monday asked abortion rights supporters to contact their legislators, sign up to speak against the bill and rally against the measure at Tuesday’s session.

The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition advocacy group has also asked its members to contact their lawmakers to support the bill.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)

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