The Iowa Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would protect unborn babies from abortion after 20 weeks when strong scientific evidence indicates they can feel pain.
The Des Moines Register reports the bill passed in a 32-19 vote Tuesday evening, and now moves to the state House for consideration.
The legislation prohibits abortions after 20 weeks except in a few limited circumstances, including when the mother’s life is at risk. It also would allow abortions up to 24 weeks on unborn babies diagnosed with an anomaly considered to be “incompatible with life,” according to the report. An individual who violates the law could face a Class C felony.
“The conversation and dialogue on this subject has always perplexed me. At 20 weeks, it is a life — it is a girl; it is a boy,” Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, said Tuesday. “The question that I have always asked myself is, ‘Why shouldn’t that life have rights?’”
State lawmakers also approved a unique amendment to the bill to address future advances in medical technology.
According to the newspaper:
The Senate adopted an amendment to the bill proposed by Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Otttumwa, that would prohibit abortions before 20 weeks if a fetus is viable. He said in an interview the amendment is aimed at the future so that as technology improves and the viability for a fetus can be earlier than Iowa’s law can follow the technology.
In asking support for the 20-week ban, Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, told the story of a college human biology professor who had kept a three-month-old fetus encased in plastic. A generation earlier, a woman who had been a student in the class became pregnant and considered having an abortion, but decided against it after observing the fetus. Years later, the woman’s daughter met the professor and expressed thanks for her life, he said.
“As we cast this important vote, it is my hope and my prayer that some day down the road a young girl will come up to you and say, ‘Thanks for my life; I appreciate it,'” Rozenboom told his fellow lawmakers.
All except two Democrats voted against the bill. Several Democrats argued that the legislation is an intrusion into a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor, according to the report. Planned Parenthood also is lobbying against the bill.
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Jenifer Bowen of Iowa Right to Life previously told the Des Moines Register that she is glad the bill is moving forward. With similar laws in 16 other states, Bowen said she does not expect abortion activists to challenge Iowa’s if it becomes law.
Currently, 16 states have pain-capable unborn child protection laws in effect, Kentucky being the most recent. Other states are considering similar bills.
Together, these laws potentially are saving thousands of babies from painful, late-term abortions. There were at least 5,770 late-term abortions at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another approximate 8,150 abortions took place between 18 weeks and 20 weeks, the CDC reports.
Though abortion advocates deny the science of fetal pain, researchers have fully established fetal pain at 20 weeks or earlier. Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for unborn pain.
At 20 weeks, the unborn child has all the parts in place – the pain receptors, spinal cord, nerve tracts, and thalamus – needed for transmitting and feeling pain. The unborn child responds to touch as early as week 6; and by week 18, pain receptors have appeared throughout the child’s body.
Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, a professor of neonatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told a U.S. Senate committee last year that “anesthesiologists, and surgeons use pain medication” for unborn babies at the 20 week stage, “because it’s supported by the literature completely.”
“I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to a horrific procedure such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection,” Malloy added.